afterward. I haven’t been shopping for three months, and that’s tragic, don’t you agree?”


“I’ll see you on Friday!” she said, not waiting for my agreement. She did that lip-sucking thing again, making me wonder if the ball in her lip was actually a real piercing rather than a glamour.

“See you Friday,” I heard myself saying lamely, feeling like I’d just been run over by a speeding truck.

There was a bounce in her step as Al headed down the quad, waving at me and ignoring her bodyguard as he fell into step a little behind her. Feeling vaguely sick to my stomach, I waved back at her and wondered if maybe, just to avoid her, I should just drop the damn class.

Chapter Two

By the time Friday rolled around, I had prepared an Al-avoidance strategy, aided by Ethan, to get myself out of another uncomfortable lunch. When I told him I’d met the Unseelie Queen’s daughter, he made no attempt to hide his dislike of her.

“She’s a manipulative, two-faced bitch,” he told me. I imagined he was scowling darkly, but since we were talking on the phone, I didn’t know for sure.

“Tell me how you really feel,” I teased, although the vehemence of his reaction made me uneasy. Ethan had been quite the player before he met me, dating and discarding pretty girls at will. He’d grown up a hell of a lot since I’d first met him, but I couldn’t help wondering if he had some kind of romantic history with Al. They were both Unseelie, after all.

“Keep your distance from her, Dana,” Ethan warned. “She’s toxic.”

“I was thinking maybe you could help me with that . . .”

Ethan and I decided we had a lunch date on Friday, one I’d forgotten about when Al had made her invitation. (An invitation I had never actually accepted, I might add.) Likely we’d have to make this a standing date so I always had an excuse not to go to lunch with Al, but I didn’t exactly mind getting to eat lunch with Ethan three times a week.

Having my defense in place, I hoped I’d be able to ignore Al as much as possible and actually learn something during class. But I’d allowed myself to forget how distracting the buzz of her glamour was. Hard as I tried to focus on the professor’s lecture, I just couldn’t concentrate. I hoped that my refusal to go to lunch with her would inspire her to go find someone else to sit with when Monday rolled around.

It turned out, however, that getting rid of Al wasn’t as easy as I thought.

When class was over, I told her in my most apologetic tones that I’d forgotten I was having lunch with Ethan, prepared for her to get pissy with me about it, because she didn’t strike me as someone used to taking no for an answer. What I wasn’t prepared for was her total inability—or unwillingness—to take a hint.

“Oh, that’s okay,” she said breezily when I told her about my lunch with Ethan. “Three’s company, right? Where are we meeting him?”

I mentally examined my words, wondering if I’d somehow managed to

convey an invitation without meaning to, but I was certain my implication had been clear. I clenched my teeth to contain a groan of frustration. Obviously, subtlety was not my friend when dealing with Al. If I wanted her to go to lunch on her own, or with someone else, I was going to have to say so straight out.

I almost did it. Almost blurted out the truth, that I didn’t want her coming with me. I’m capable of being both blunt and rude, when circumstances require it.

But I wasn’t sure open rudeness to Mab’s daughter was the best idea in the world, and I wasn’t a hundred percent certain she deserved it. Sure, she was a bit socially awkward, and she’d only befriended me because she wanted something from me.

But she was clearly lonely, and she had apologized for asking me to take her to London. Maybe there was a kernel of sincerity in her attempt to make it up to me by buying me lunch.

I didn’t entirely convince myself, but I couldn’t quite force myself to rebuff her, either. I let out a soft sigh of resignation.

“At the little cafe on Elm Street,” I said, wondering if Ethan would chase Al off himself when we got there. I doubted most Unseelie Fae would be willing to be rude to the Queen’s daughter, but Ethan and Kimber believed firmly in their father’s progressive platform, which said that the Avalon Fae shouldn’t swear allegiance to the Courts of Faerie. Ethan wouldn’t treat Al with any more deference than he’d treat any other Fae girl. And I knew he was going to be pissed at me for being spineless enough to let her come along on what was supposed to be our date.


Ethan was already seated at a circular table meant for two on the cafe’s patio. It was another beautiful day in Avalon, although the temperature had dipped to the high fifties. Al was wearing another flimsy black camisole, while I was wearing a heavy wool sweater over a long-sleeved T-shirt. The Fae generate more body heat than humans, and they’re practically impervious to the cold, but that’s one Fae trait I’d failed to inherit.

Ethan smiled when he caught sight of me, then scowled when he caught sight of Al. I knew right then that it was going to be a miserable lunch.

I was right. Ethan was rude and surly—which is really unusual for him, since he usually tries to be roguishly charming even when he’s in a bad mood. I was resentful and uncomfortable. And Al was completely oblivious, chattering on about trivialities, never seeming to mind that neither Ethan nor I was participating in the conversation. Apparently, she liked listening to herself talk.

Ethan had a one o’clock class—which I think he was planning on skipping when he thought it would be just him and me for lunch—and he excused himself at 12:45, flashing me a reproachful look before he hurried off and left me alone with Al. When I escaped her clutches, I was going to give him a piece of my mind for abandoning me like that—and for being such a jerk for the entire lunch. If he was going to be a jerk, the least he could have done was openly tell Al to take a hike. I wasn’t above hoping someone else would play the part of villain in my stead.

Still clueless, Al waved a cheery good-bye to Ethan’s retreating back, then gave me another bright smile.

“Oh, good,” she said. “Now it’s just us girls.”

I looked pointedly at our two very male bodyguards, but I guess they didn’t count in her book.

“I’ve so been looking forward to our little shopping excursion,” Al continued, pushing back her chair.

Ugh. I’d forgotten that Al had decreed we were going shopping after lunch. I don’t even enjoy shopping with Kimber—I’ve never been much of a girly-girl—and the prospect of spending more time in Al’s company wasn’t the least bit appealing.

“I don’t know . . .” I started, not sure what excuse would actually work on Al, but she didn’t give me time to think of one.

“Oh please don’t cancel on me,” she begged, grabbing my hand and

squeezing it while she looked at me with wide, imploring eyes. “I’m desperate for a distraction.” Her voice frogged up and she had to clear her throat. “Coming back to school and finding Gary gone has been really hard,” she confided. “I loved him so much. And I guess I was so wrapped up in him that I didn’t make any other close friends last year. I can’t bear to go back to my flat and be alone. Please come shopping with me.”

How could I say no to a plea like that? I knew I was being manipulated, but I also knew Al was genuinely hurting. Was it worth causing her more pain just to get out of an hour or two of shopping? Probably not.

“All right,” I reluctantly agreed. “Let’s shop.”


There are scattered chain stores in Avalon, but the city itself is ancient, as are many of its Fae residents. Change comes, but it does so slowly and with great resistance. Even if the chains had been around, I suspect Al would have turned her nose up at them and gone straight for the designer boutiques. Avalon boutiques don’t exactly cater to the Goth crowd, but it turned out Al had eclectic tastes.

Maybe the Goth thing was just a phase, one she was tiring of.

At the first couple of shops, we just browsed, Al keeping up a steady monologue while I shifted hangers around on racks, not really looking at the clothes. In the third shop, Al decided we needed to get serious, and she

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