A/N: Another Niall/Donia story! Can't help it. I'm hooked. This is set a couple of years after Darkest Mercy. In my AU, they had a couple of romantic encounters for several years before Donia and Keenan got married. That's essentially all you need to know! I hope you'll enjoy it, feel free to leave a review :)
Disclaimer: All Wicked Lovely characters are property of Melissa Marr. I just toy with them for my personal enjoyment.
Donia was sorting through some old documents in an abandoned study of Beira when she felt a familiar presence at the doorway. She couldn't stop the smile that spread on her face.
Slowly, she turned her head. "Business calling again?"
Niall lifted a corner of his mouth. He stepped inside the room, his presence immediately demanding attention.
"It's nice to see you, too."
With a laugh, the Winter Queen went over to him and pulled him into a hug, trying her best to ignore the longing that came with it.
"Keenan's out for the moment, but he'll be back soon." She told him. "How are you?"
"As well as I can be. It's a miracle that Irial hasn't driven me insane again, but he's trying his best." Niall said with a humorless smile.
Donia frowned. "You need to send him away if it's too much. He's not always.. The best influence on you."
"It seems I found myself a better influence." The Dark King replied, looking directly at Donia. She felt heat rising in her cheeks and turned away.
"Did we have business I forgot about?" She asked, trying hard to keep the slight tremble out of her voice.
Niall stepped closer to her and Donia fought against the chill that crawled up her arms. She felt wispy shadows brush against her skin.
"We don't. I came to see you."
Donia slowly exhaled, calling up all the calmness of winter that was in her body. Ice patterns formed on the wall.
She walked away from Niall, towards the window. He followed suit. Both of them stared out at the bare trees in the garden.
"You shouldn't be here. Not like this." The Winter Queen whispered. She drove her nails into the skin of her arms.
"We're friends. Friends can visit each other, can't they?" Niall's try at feigned innocence wasn't very convincing.
"We're more than friends and you know it. You know what happens every time when we're alone." Donia's whisper was furious. She glared at him.
Wanting to avoid her anger, Niall turned his gaze to the garden again. It took several moments until he spoke again.
"That's not entirely my fault, is it?" He said, watching Donia out of the corner of his eye. She flinched. Then, her head hung low.
"I hate myself for it. I hate the way I feel about you."
Niall swallowed. "I understand you."
"No, you don't. You don't understand me." Donia turned again to face him. "I'm married to Keenan. I shouldn't feel.. I shouldn't want-" She broke off, frustrated.
"I know." Niall said, gently.
"Tell me why. Why can't we, after all these years, let go of each other? Why are we still caught up in this?" Tears of frustration burned in Donia's eyes.
In that moment there was nothing Niall wanted to do more than reach out and pull her to him, kiss her until there were no more tears left.
"If there's one thing I've learned in my life.." He said quietly. ".. It's that asking 'why' when it comes to love is useless."
Donia looked at him - the man she'd never thought would mean so much to her one day. She thought about all the times they'd slipped up. All the times she dreamed about him, or a life with him.
She still dreamt about it sometimes.
It couldn't be. Donia had given up this dream for Keenan - and he deserved it. Since their reunion, he had been nothing but a loving, caring husband. Just imagining his face if he knew of this was almost enough to make her turn away from Niall.
"I love you." Donia said so quietly it was almost inaudible. It was the first time she openly admitted it like that. Niall froze. He couldn't bring his mouth to move.
"And I wanted you for years. It always hurt when you stopped before I.. Before I got enough."
Niall felt a wave of heat pulse through him,remembering all the moments they shared. The stolen kisses, the fleeting touches, quick breaths. But never more. Not once did they go all the way, though both of them wanted to. But the thought of Keenan had always held them back.
"I wanted it, too. But I couldn't."
Donia smiled sadly. "Because of Keenan."
Niall nodded wordlessly. He glanced at Donia. "Do you still..?"
"Yes." The reply came without hesitation. "Even though it goes against my wedding vows and it would be the worst betrayal of my husband, I still want you."
She spoke freely now: Finally being able to admit her feelings seemed to be a relief to her. To Niall, it presented just another burden. He allowed himself the most harmless slip-up that he could think of at the moment: He stood behind Donia, pulling her to him and pressed a soft kiss on her temple. Her response was a low sigh. She found his hand and held it tight.
"Just for a moment.." She whispered to herself. "A moment is all I need."
Niall's smile was bittersweet. At least to herself, Donia could still lie.