Though the other male Sidhe with him were similarly attired in rich blues, greens, and silvers, none but he held my attention for long. He might look refined, but I watched him as I would a wild, feral animal. Like the others, he had long, silky hair. A clip held his raven tresses back from his face and revealed his pointed ears.
He appeared younger than the other fae but not by much. Long youthfulness was the nature of his people, some of whom lived for untold millennia, or so I heard. After reaching adulthood, they didn’t change much physically until thousands of years had passed, only aging subtly during their latter years. I’d never seen a fae that looked a day over fifty, so I supposed that was their upper limit to looking old. Still, the intervening years lay heavy within their eyes. In testament to this, his physique belied the age reflected in a gaze I somehow knew to be sky blue.
Which I shouldn’t know.
In the flickering light provided by the torches, such a detail had been impossible to notice, let alone note. It was another mystery that dogged me and kept me tossing in my hard bed at night. At this moment, however, it wasn’t important, only my morbid curiosity was. That decided, I finished examining him.
Finely tailored tunic and pants hugged a long, lean form that held a surprising amount of muscle. A cape had been carelessly thrown about his neck and flowed around his heels in the slight wind. He was handsome in an otherworldly way, and that sent a spike of ire through me. My fingers flexed with the desire to claw into him, to make him feel my pain. I fisted my hand in my filthy jacket to curb the impulse.
What was he doing to me?
My lips twisted into another snarl. I hated him, so what attraction could he hold over me? It wasn’t merely my hormones acting up at the sight of a good-looking face. I knew what lurked underneath. Plus, even though I was twenty, I’d never had much time for boys. A few groping sessions behind an abandoned shack was all I could claim. They all invariably ended the same way—a knee to the groin whenever overzealous hands wandered to places I wasn’t quite ready for them to explore.
So why did I dream of his hands on me? Why did this fae stir me so when I should, and did, hate him? My fingernails bit into my palms as I clenched my hands. If the situation hadn’t been so dire, I’d say that his draw was because I could only observe him from afar. He posed no threat to my heart, for even if I hadn’t loathed him, he didn’t even know I existed. If he did, he’d only regard me as a squashed bug on the bottom of his expensive boot. Most Sidhe treated their bloodhounds better than they did their human servants. Julia had backed this up, and as a scullery maid to an elite Elvin household, she should know.
Just then, the wind turned, and a particularly malodorous air slammed up my nose. Though I’d thought myself largely immune to junk pile stench, my gag reflex proved me wrong. A low, strangled sound escaped me. Apparently, it wasn’t enough for the fae’s sensitive hearing to pick up, for they paid no heed to it.
Phew. Now I had another problem, though. The muscles in my right leg were screaming in protest of my crouched position. In a moment of stupidity, I shifted my weight from one foot to the other. That was all it took for the worn soles of my shoes to slip on a mushy patch of food. I crashed face forward into the stinking heap before me, a dull thud ringing out like a hectoring shout.
Shit, shit, shit! I lay there, frozen in place and forgetting how to breathe. My ears strained to hear any telltale sound that the Sidhe had noticed my moment of insane clumsiness. The voices had stopped. Damn. With dread tugging at my insides, I pushed myself up, which allowed me the slightest peek between the mounds.
They’d all swiveled their heads in my direction. I pulled back quickly, cringing, and forced myself not to fidget. Surely, though, they could hear my heart trying to thud out of my chest?
Oh, God, this wasn’t good. If they came searching for me or found any of the others… A beating would be merciful to the death or rape they could mete out. My only hope was if they thought scouring the trash dumps was beneath them. But they could easily call for a lesser Sidhe or human to do the dirty work.
Lucifer turned to the others and said something. One of the brown-haired fae shrugged and walked away. I held my breath. Was he going for reinforcements while the others waited?
Soon, the other Sidhe followed the path of the first one, Lucifer bringing up the rear. They didn’t head for the dumping grounds’ gate but toward the white walls and the Elven part of the city of Chimra. Relief washed over me, and a pent-up breath whooshed from my lungs.
Lucifer stopped in his tracks and faced the two little mountains that hid me. His eyes narrowed, and panic flooded my veins. His gaze meshed with mine for an interminably long second before he spun upon his heel and trailed after the others.
Unmindful of the rotting food around me, I collapsed against a pile. He’d seen me. And done nothing. Why? Though I told myself it might have been an act of capriciousness, some niggling sense warned me Lucifer did nothing without a modicum of forethought. Barely aware of what I was doing, I lifted trembling fingers to wipe the worst of the goo from my face.
Once I wrestled my pulse under control and life seeped back into my weak legs, my survival instincts finally kicked into existence. The trash yard suddenly seemed darker, even though the sun poked sickly through the smog-and-cloud covered sky. Shadows lurked around every garbage heap. The unclaimed treasures—both Sidhe and human items the Sidhe or well-to-do humans discarded—no longer called to me. All I wanted was the safety of my grandparents’ shanty.
As I ran through the maze of rubbish, the sight of Boundary Road caused my heart to lighten. Pausing, I swept my gaze over the visible portion of the road. No guard—nor anyone else, for that matter—was in view. Good. Drunks, even if they were guards, could often be counted on to sleep on the job. It wouldn’t do for the residents of this section to see me leaving the trash heaps. Even those with clearances weren’t around. They had permission to dump or scavenge trash only on certain days and in certain areas. I sighed in relief and dived through a loose portion of fence that was located right near the ground.
If I stayed in the shadows, I could slip across the road and into the narrow alleys of human Chimra. Unfortunately, I’d have to go through Upper Chimra, better known as UC, where the more well-off humans lived. They might look askance at me, but I wasn’t breaking a law by being there. Even though UC humans curried the favor of the Sidhe, they couldn’t totally forbid the presence of the lower classes.
As I crossed the road, I couldn’t suppress the spring in my step. My mind kept singing, “Home free.” That was what I—
A hand shot out and grabbed me by the arm, tugging me into a small, deserted alley.