Summer's Crossing(3)

By: Julie Kagawa


As if he sensed what I was thinking, Ash glared at me, proud and defiant, daring me to say something. He did know, I realized. Mr. Cold, Dark and Broody might be a lot of things, but he wasn’t stupid. He knew Faery always came to collect, he knew the dangers of bargaining with a dangerous, exiled faery queen. But he’d done it anyway, because of her. Because of the girl we were both crazy for, who was now far away, beyond our reach.

Meghan.

“Fine.” Ash faced the Exile Queen again. “Let’s get this over with. What do you need, Leanansidhe?”

Leanansidhe preened. “Just a small request, darling,” she smiled. “A teensy favor, hardly worth mentioning. You’ll be done in no time.”

Which was Faery speak for “huge, ginormous, dangerous ordeal.” I frowned, but Leanansidhe continued without looking in my direction.

“I’m afraid I’ve lost something,” she continued with a heartfelt sigh. “Something I prize most dearly. Something that cannot be replaced. I would like you to get it back.”

“Lost?” I broke in. “Lost how? Lost like you dropped it down the sink, or lost like it walked out the door and ran off into the woods?”

Leanansidhe pursed her lips and shot me a glance. “Puck, darling, I don’t mean to sound rude, but why are you still here? I made a bargain with the Winter prince, and it does not involve you in any way. Shouldn’t you be off annoying Oberon or his basilisk of a wife?”

“Ouch.” I mock grimaced. “Well, it’s nice to feel so wanted.” The Exile Queen narrowed her eyes, looking a bit more dangerous, and I grinned back. “Sorry to burst your bubble, Lea, but I was here first. If ice-boy wants me to leave, he can say so. Otherwise, I’m not going anywhere.”

I wasn’t anyway, and they both knew it, but Leanansidhe looked at Ash. When he didn’t say anything, she huffed. “You both are impossible,” she stated, throwing up her hands. “Oh, very well. Stay or go, darling, it makes no difference to me. In fact…” She stopped then, mid-gesture, regarding me with a faint smile that made me nervous. “Now that I think of it, this might be for the best. Yes, of course. This will work out nicely.”

Ash and I exchanged a glance. “Why do I get the feeling I’m not going to like what’s coming next?” I muttered. He shook his head, and I sighed. “Okay, enough dancing around. For the ten million dollar question—what exactly did you lose, Lea?”

“A violin,” Leanansidhe exclaimed, as if that were obvious. “It is most upsetting, and I have been a broken wreck because of it.” She sniffed, clutching at her heart. “My favorite violin, stolen right out from under me.”

“A violin?” I echoed, making a face. “Really? You’re calling in a favor for that? What, you don’t want to wait until you’ve lost a pipe organ or something?”

Ash regarded her solemnly. “You want us to find the thief,” he said, and it wasn’t really a question.

“Well, not really, darling.” Leanansidhe scratched the side of her face. “I have a good idea who the thief is, and where they took my precious violin. I simply need you to go there and bring it back.”

“If you know who the thief is, and where they took the violin, why do you need us?”

Leanansidhe smiled at me. It was a very evil smile, I thought. “Because, my darling Puck,” she crooned, “my precious violin was stolen by Titania, your Summer Queen. I need you and the Winter prince to go into the Seelie Court and steal it back.”



Oh, fabulous.

“Well,” I said cheerfully, “is that all? Steal something back from the Queen of the Seelie Court? I was just thinking we needed to go on a suicide mission, right ice-boy?”

Ash ignored me, typical of him. “Queen Titania has your violin?” he asked, incredulous. “Are you certain it was her?”

“Quite certain, darling.” Leanansidhe pulled a cigarette flute out of the air, puffing indignantly. “In fact, this was right after you went back into the Nevernever. The jealous shrew made quite sure I knew who was responsible. She still believes I stole her wretched golden mirror, all those years ago, and has never forgiven me for it.” Lea paused then, and looked right at me. “I do not know how she has come to think that, pet, do you?”