Old Habits (Wicked Lovely #2.6) - Melissa Marr

Melissa Marr - Wicked Lovely #2.6 - Old Habits

Old Habits (Wicked Lovely #2.6)
Melissa Marr

fantasy/young romance

Prologue

After Ink Exchange

“You’re going to make an excellent king,” Irial said.

And before Niall could react, Irial pressed his mouth to the long scar that he’d once allowed Gabriel to carve on Niall’s face. Niall felt his knees give out from under him, felt a disquieting new energy flood his body, felt the awareness of countless dark fey like threads in a great tapestry weaving his life to theirs.

“Take good care of the Dark Court. They deserve that. They deserve you.” Irial bowed his head. “My king.”

“No.” Niall stumbled back, tottering on the sidewalk, nearly falling into the traffic. “I don’t want this. I’ve told you—”

“The court needs new energy, Gancanagh. I got us through Beira’s reign, found ways to strengthen us. I’m tired—more changed by Leslie than I’ll admit, even to you. You may have broken our tie, seared me from her skin, but that doesn’t undo my changes. I am no longer fit to lead my court.” Irial smiled sadly. “My court—your court now— needs a new king. You’re the right choice. You have always been the next Dark King.”

“Take it back.” Niall felt the foolishness of his words, but he couldn’t think of anything more articulate.

“If you don’t want it—”

“I don’t.”

“Pick someone worthy to pass it on to, then.” Irial’s eyes were lightening ever so slightly. The eerily tempting energy that had always clung to him like a haze was less overwhelming now. “In the meantime, I offer you what I’ve never offered another—my fealty, Gancanagh, my king.”

He knelt then, head bowed, there on the busy sidewalk. Mortals craned their necks to stare.

And Niall gaped at Irial, the last Dark King, as the reality settled on him. He’d just grab the first dark fey he saw and . . . turn over this kind of power to some random faery? A dark faery? He thought of Bananach and the Ly Ergs circling, seeking war and violence. Irial was moderate in comparison to Bananach’s violence. Niall couldn’t turn the court over to just anyone, not in good conscience, and Irial knew it.

“The head of the Dark Court has always been chosen from the solitary fey. I waited a long time to find another after you said no. But then I realized I was waiting for you to leave Keenan. You didn’t choose me over him, but you chose the harder path.” Irial stood then and took Niall’s face in his hands, gently but firmly, and kissed his forehead. “You’ll do well. And when you are ready to talk, I’ll still be here.”

Then he disappeared into the throng of mortals winding down the sidewalk, leaving Niall speechless and bewildered.

Chapter 1

Several weeks later

Niall walked through Huntsdale, trying to ignore the responses his presence elicited. He’d never walked unnoticed. Over the centuries, he’d been a Gancanagh and (unknowingly) the companion to the Dark King; later, he’d been advisor to both the late Summer King and the current Summer King. None of those were roles associated with dismissal. He’d always had influence. When he was with Irial, he hadn’t realized that his companion was the Dark King, but that hadn’t meant that many of those he’d encountered were unaware. They knew the influence he’d wielded before he did.

Dark Court faeries—my faeries now—scurried around him. They were always in reach, always in sight, always willing to do the least thing that he required. They sought his approval, and despite wishing he was impervious, he couldn’t withhold his responses. Being their king meant feeling a connection to them that he’d only ever felt twice—to Irial and to Leslie. Perversely, perhaps, being the Dark King meant he felt even more connected to both the faery and the mortal girl. Leslie, although she’d severed her tie to Irial, was still protected by the Dark Court, and Irial, while no longer king, was the pulse of the court.

Worse, Niall could taste the emotions of every faery he passed. He knew the things they sought to hide with their implacable expressions. He knew their pains and their hungers. It made the world flex with sensory overloads.

Which is why I hide.

Niall walked in the door of the Crow’s Nest, the mortal club where his closest friend waited. Seth didn’t stand when he saw Niall; he didn’t bow or scurry. He merely nodded and said, “Hey.”

The weight of the job Niall didn’t want seemed to slip away. He sat down at the small table in the back of