Al snorted. “Yeah. Something like my mother, who doesn’t want me dating humans. She was furious with me when she first found out about Gary. She ordered me to stop seeing him, but part of the reason I wanted to come to Avalon U was so I could be free from her just for a little while.”

Somehow, I didn’t think it was that easy to be free from Faerie Queens or from mothers in general. Mine had followed me all the way to Avalon and, after a brief period of enforced sobriety, was back to her old ways, drinking herself stupid so that I could hardly bear to lay eyes on her. I doubted having a Faerie Queen for a mother would be much more pleasant, but sometimes it seemed like anyone would be better than my own mom.

“Do you think he went home to London?” I asked. As a Fae, Al couldn’t physically go to London to see her boyfriend, but she could at least make a phone call and get to the bottom of things.

Al nodded and tossed the rest of her sandwich—cold cuts, oozing

condiments, veggies, and all—in the direction of the patiently waiting pigeons. The large projectile sent them all winging away with cries of alarm, and the sandwich’s contents splatted on the grass. Al, who obviously didn’t care about the mess she’d just made, brushed the crumbs off her hands as the pigeons recovered their courage and swarmed back in.

“His super gave me his forwarding address. I’ve tried ringing him, but no one answers. It . . . worries me. I keep thinking, maybe my mother didn’t settle for just chasing him away. Maybe she had him killed.”

If Al were just an ordinary human, I might have laughed at the absurdity of her worry. But when we were talking about the Queen of the Unseelie Court, I wasn’t sure the worry was so absurd. The Unseelie is the darker of the two Courts, and is often associated with things evil. Not that that’s completely fair, because the Unseelie Fae are just as capable of being good people as the Seelie Fae are. But it isn’t completely unfair, either.

“Do you really think she’d have done that?” I asked, wondering how I’d allowed myself to get sucked into this conversation. It wasn’t exactly the casual, getting-to-know-you lunchtime conversation I’d been expecting.

“She’s capable of it,” Al said grimly. “But I don’t know. She’s scary enough she could probably have just said ‘boo’ and he’d have run for it.”

Wow. That made Gary sound like quite the Prince Charming. I studied my sandwich with great intensity in the hopes she wouldn’t see my opinion on my face.

“Or maybe she just offered him money,” Al continued. “He was on

scholarship and always strapped for cash.”

If she thought he would run away if her mom said boo or would likely take money to break it off with her, then Al was better off without him, but I knew better than to say so. I glanced surreptitiously at my watch, wondering how much longer I had to force myself to make friendly with her. I’d been ready to get away from her— and especially from her magic—since she’d first sat down beside me. I definitely felt a pang of sympathy for her, but not so much that I wanted to sit on the cold, damp grass with her magic making my skin crawl any longer than necessary. But Al looked like she was in no hurry to leave, even though she’d discarded her sandwich, and I was thinking I might need to suddenly “remember” a pressing appointment.

She gave me a speculative look while I was still trying to craft my lie.

“You wouldn’t by any chance be willing to take me into London to look for him, would you?” she asked, and there was no missing the hint of calculation in her eye.

I forgot about the lie I’d been trying to come up with as I gaped at her. “You have got to be kidding me,” I said, although I knew she wasn’t. My stomach clenched as I realized this was why she’d approached me in the first place. I was the only Faeriewalker in Avalon, and one of only two (that I knew of) in the entire world. Thanks to my rare power, I could take a mortal into Faerie, and I could take a Fae into the mortal world—as long as they stayed close to me, within the aura of my Faeriewalker’s power. Through some experimentation with mortal objects in Faerie, I’d determined that my aura stretched for about fifteen yards around me.

Farther away from me than that, they poofed out of existence. Which was just what would happen to Al if I took her into the mortal world and we got separated.

“I can pay,” Al said. “A lot, actually. It would be a quick trip. Just a few hours.

We’d go to Gary’s home, and—”

“No,” I said with a firm shake of my head. I told myself that I shouldn’t feel hurt over this, over the fact that she’d tried to befriend me just because she wanted to use me. I should be used to being used by now. Hell, even Ethan and Kimber had wanted to use me when they’d first met me. And maybe if Al hadn’t pretended to be interested in friendship from the beginning, it wouldn’t have stung so much.

But she had pretended, and it did hurt, even though I didn’t want to be friends with her anyway.

“Please, Dana—”

“Absolutely not!” I shoved the remains of my sandwich back into the paper bag, sure an angry flush was creeping up my neck. “It’s way too dangerous. If I took you into the mortal world and you got more than about five feet away from me, you’d be dead.” So it was an exaggeration, and she could actually get about fifteen yards from me without dying. Sue me. I thought it might discourage Al from asking anymore.

“So I’d have to stay close. I could do that.”

I had so many objections to this idea I couldn’t even begin to voice them all.

But one of those objections rose above the rest, clamoring the loudest. “I may not be an official member of the Seelie Court,” I said, because although my father was Seelie, I’d categorically refused to pledge my allegiance, “but if I were to take an Unseelie princess out into the mortal world and something went wrong, it could very easily start a war between the Courts.” Faerie wars had been started for far less cause, and had devastating effects not just on the Fae, but on the mortals unlucky enough to get caught in the middle. “I’m not about to risk that, and there’s nothing you can say to change my mind.”

I leapt to my feet, no longer caring about being polite, so pissed off I was practically vibrating with it. I doubted Al was an idiot. She had to know how risky her suggestion was, and not just to her personally. And yet she was willing to risk something that could start a war just so she could confront a boyfriend who refused to answer the phone when she called. The selfishness of it blew me away.

“Wait!” Al cried, jumping to her feet also and grabbing my arm to keep me from storming off.

Our sudden movement had startled the flock of pigeons who’d been

feasting on Al’s sandwich, and we were both buffeted by the gusts of air from their wings. I hoped one of them crapped on Al’s glamour-enhanced hair.

“Let go,” I growled. “I have to go home now.” Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Finn watching our interaction closely, but he didn’t come any closer. I silently thanked him for letting me handle things. From the look on his face, I suspected Al’s bodyguard would have flattened me if I’d grabbed her like she was grabbing me.

“I’m so sorry!” Al said, still holding my arm. Her blue eyes glimmered with tears as she looked at me beseechingly. “I’ve made a total hash of everything.” One of those tears leaked down her cheek, and she made no move to wipe it away. “I shouldn’t have asked that of you. I just . . .” She sniffled, finally letting go of me and staring down at the ground, the picture of repentance. “I just wanted to see Gary, to make sure he was all right. It was stupid, and I’m sorry I asked.”

She looked so sad I might have believed her, if I didn’t keep getting stuck on the suspicion that the only reason she’d approached me in the first place was because she meant to ask this very favor.

“Please forgive me,” she said, sucking her lower lip with its piercing into her mouth and making a pouty face.

I’m really not that much of a forgiving type—just ask my mom—but

something about Al kept stirring me to reluctant sympathy. I didn’t really believe she deserved to be forgiven, but I let out a sigh anyway.

“Okay,” I said. “I forgive you.”

Her face lit up, the tears vanishing so quickly I wondered if they’d been nothing more than a glamour-induced illusion. “Thank you!” she gushed, then hugged me so tight I feared my ribs would crack. Her magic surged over me even more strongly, stealing my breath.

I pulled away from the hug as soon as I could. Al was still beaming at me.

“On Friday, you’re letting me buy you lunch,” she informed me. “Just to make up for me being such a bitch today.”

Words stuck in my throat. I had zero desire to have lunch with her Friday, or any other day, for that matter. “That’s really not necessary,” I choked out.

“Of course it is,” she said firmly. “It’ll be fun. You’ll see. Maybe we can go do a little shopping together

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