I glared at her. The wall at my back shook, and with a start, I realized I was leaning against Ethan, and he was laughing. With a snarl, I pulled away from him and sprang to my feet.
Way too fast. Can you say “head rush”? I swayed and flailed my arms for balance. Wouldn’t you know it, Ethan was there again, his hands on my shoulders, steadying me.
“Take it easy,” he said. “Unless you enjoyed fainting so much you’d like to do it again.”
“No thanks,” I mumbled, and I let him support my weight while the world stopped spinning.
The little splats of rain had turned more aggressive and almost qualified as a steady drizzle. And the seat of my pants was soaked through. God, please let that be because the ground was wet. I’d had enough humiliation for one day, thank you very much.
“Let’s get you inside and out of the rain,” Ethan said. “And I bet you could use a hot cup of tea.”
I tried not to make a face at the thought. “I could really go for a cup of coffee right now,” I said, but neither Ethan nor Kimber seemed that interested in what I wanted.
Once again, Ethan put his arm around my shoulders, only this time Kimber didn’t bother to argue. I was trying hard not to think about what I’d seen and what it might mean, and even harder not to think about the fact that I’d actually fainted, so I wasn’t as focused on the warmth of Ethan’s body next to mine. When I snapped out of my temporary daze, it was to find that my arm had somehow found its way around his waist, and that I was now matching his stride. No more awkward hip bumps.
When we got back to the courtyard, all three of us went up to Kimber’s apartment. Kimber gave me some dry clothes, and I ducked into the bathroom to change. It occurred to me that my life might have been much easier if I’d lied and said I saw nothing unusual when I’d looked out into the distance. I was a pretty good liar—Mom gave me plenty of occasions to practice—but I doubt I’d have been able to pretend nothing was wrong in the face of the dizziness and nausea.
I looked at my face in the bathroom mirror once I’d finished changing, and I hardly recognized myself. My eyes were a little too wide, my face too pale. I leaned forward and inspected the roots of my hair, half-expecting to see it had turned white, but it still looked normal.
I splashed hot water on my face, and that brought some color back to my cheeks. Then I took a deep breath and went to join Ethan and Kimber in the living room. At this point, I was beginning to suspect I didn’t want an explanation for what I’d seen, but I supposed I was going to get it anyway.
Ethan and Kimber were sitting on the sofa I’d used as a bed last night, their heads bent together, their voices no louder than a whisper. Ethan was looking earnest, and Kimber was scowling at him. I wondered if she ever smiled when Ethan was around.
They both noticed me at the same time, Kimber interrupting herself mid-sentence while Ethan sat up straight and flashed me one of his dazzling smiles. The smile warmed me like I was standing in a ray of sunshine, and I found myself smiling back in spite of everything.
There was a prissy china tea set on the coffee table, and Kimber made a racket fussing with the pot and then pouring three cups. I knew she wasn’t even remotely clumsy, so the noise was probably meant to annoy Ethan. It seemed to work. He stopped smiling at me and rolled his eyes at her.
I took a deep breath, not realizing that I’d stopped breathing entirely while his eyes had been on me. My heart did some weird fluttery thing in my chest. I could get used to Ethan looking at me like that, smiling at me and bathing me in warmth.
I shook my head at myself. Out of your league, Dana, my inner voice said. It was nice to have a hottie like him treating me like a woman instead of a girl, but I didn’t dare let myself think of it as anything other than habitual flirting on his part. I’m not ugly—how could I be with Fae blood running through my veins?—but I’m not anything special, either. Certainly not pretty enough to attract the attention of someone like Ethan. He was hot even for a Fae, and he could have his pick of women prettier, more worldly, and more sophisticated than me. I’m a big believer in not getting my hopes up.
I felt shy and vaguely silly as I took a seat on an antique straight-backed chair perpendicular to the sofa. I picked up the cup of tea Kimber had put in front of the chair—beside her, not Ethan, of course—even though I didn’t really feel in the mood for tea. Especially not when I saw the little specks peppering the bottom of the cup. Apparently, they didn’t use tea bags in Avalon. Sigh.
I raised the cup to my lips and took a halfhearted sip. Then I lowered the cup back into the saucer and found myself staring at the tea leaves, wondering what a gypsy would read in them. I had a feeling it would be nothing good.
“So are you guys going to tell me what’s going on now?” I asked, still looking at the tea. Almost like if I didn’t look at the Fae, they wouldn’t speak to me and tell me what my shifting vision had meant to them.
“You’re a very special girl, Dana Stuart,” Ethan said.
Against my will, I found myself looking up at him, getting trapped by his gaze. I may be naive, but I’d seen enough movies and TV to recognize the R-rated look in those striking teal eyes of his. My throat tightened, and I wasn’t sure whether I felt hot or cold. It took all I had not to squirm.
“My name’s Hathaway,” I said weakly. My parents had never married, and I’d carried my mom’s name my entire life. I didn’t feel inclined to change that now.