Stopping Time Page 13

’’I know that there are parts of being the Dark King that he still handles.’’ Niall\s expression clouded. ’’I hate being this...almost as much as I enjoy it. Some of the ugly things, though, deals and cruelties...I can\ .’’

’’So he does.’’

Niall nodded. ’’There are things I don\ see. If we could make it so you didn\ see...’’

She ignored that suggestion. ’’You know what happened with Ren?’’

Niall didn\ answer for a moment. Then he nodded. ’’I do.’’

’’I want to be sorry. I want to be the sweet girl you think I am. I want to say I\m sorry that Irial’’ she paused, trying to find delicate words for what she knew had to have happened ’’got rid of Ren.’’

For a moment, Niall stared at her. He didn\ speak.

’’I\m not that girl,’’ Leslie admitted. ’’Any more than you\ e Summer Court. You belong in the Dark Court. With Irial.’’

’’And you.’’

’’No.’’ She sighed the word. ’’The person I would become in the court isn\ who I want to be. I could be. I could be crueler than you are right now. There are reasons that Irial chose me, that I chose his tattoo, and even if you don\ see them, I do. If I stay away from the court, I can be something else too.’’

’’I\ll love you either way,’’ Niall promised. ’’He would too.’’

’’I wouldn\ .’’ She laced her fingers through his, and they stood there quietly for several moments.

He didn\ look away. Cars passed on the street. People walked by. The world kept moving, but they alone were still.

Finally, he asked, ’’So should I go?’’

’’Not tonight. Can we pretend tonight? That you\ e not the Dark King? That I\m not afraid of the things I learned about myself in your court? For tonight, can we just be two people who don\ know that tomorrow isn\ ours?’’ She felt tears on her cheeks. She wasn\ well yet, but she was sure that she couldn\ go back to the world of faeries without destroying all the progress she was making. Maybe if the two faeries she loved were of any other court, she could.

They aren\ . They never will be. And we would\ve never been together if they were.

’’What are you saying?’’ Niall asked.

’’I can\ return to the court, but I can\ pretend that you aren\ in my life. I see you. All of you.’’ Leslie didn\ move any closer to him, but she didn\ back away either. ’’I need my life to be out here away from the courts but I look forward to your calls, to his visits. I want to talk to him, and I want to...’’

’’What?’’ Niall prompted.

At the end of the block, Irial stood watching. She\d known he was there, known that he\d be closer if he could, and known that he had made this night possible. She was safe from Ren because of Irial. She was in Niall\s arms because of Irial.

She concentrated on the tendril of connection she had to him, trying to let it open enough to feel him and for him to feel her emotions. She wasn\ sure if it worked, but he blew her a kiss.

’’Leslie?’’ Niall looked as tentative as he had when they\d first met. ’’What do you want?’’

’’I want you to come upstairs with me. Tonight.’’

Irial smiled.

Niall stepped back, but he took her hand in his. ’’Are you sure?’’

’’Yes. Give us tonight. Tomorrow’’ she looked past him to let her gaze rest on Irial ’’tomorrow, you go back to your court, and I continue my life. Tonight, though...’’

’’I can love without touching.’’ Niall looked behind him, as if he\d known where Irial was all along, and added, ’’I leaned that lesson centuries ago.’’

’’Tomorrow you can love me from a safe distance.’’ Leslie opened the door;then, she looked back at the faery standing in the shadows watching the two of them. ’’But it\s okay to stop time every so often to be with someone you love.’’

Niall paused. ’’You make it sound so easy.’’

’’No.’’ She led him inside. ’’It\s not easy. Letting you go in the morning will hurt, but I don\ mind hurting a little if it\s for something beautiful.’’

A shadow passed through Niall\s eyes.

’’He wouldn\ ask you to change who you are, anything between you, if you stopped time there either.’’ Leslie started up the stairs, holding on to Niall\s hand as she did so. ’’But not tonight.’’

’’No, not tonight.’’ Niall kissed her until she was breathless.

And then they let time and worries and fears and the rest of the things that meant they couldn\ have forever stop for the night.

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