His lips quirked, but his eyes still had that dark, hungry gleam in them. “Stuart or Hathaway, you’re special.”
Kimber cleared her throat loudly. Ethan pouted at her.
“You are such a buzz kill,” he grumbled. She started to say something, but he cut her off, his attention back on me. “You know your father is one of the elite, one of the most powerful Fae in Avalon.”
Now I did squirm. I wished my mom had told me the truth all these years so I’d have known what I was getting into when I came to Avalon. But she’d told me so many contradicting stories that it had been impossible to determine what was truth and what was fiction. Unfortunately, I could no longer deny that my father’s exalted status among the Fae was one of those truths.
“The Fae are not a spectacularly fertile people,” Ethan said. “We don’t have children with each other all that often, and we have children with humans even more rarely.” He grinned. “Kimber is kind of a freak of nature, because she was born less than two years after me.”
Kimber smacked his arm. Hard. “Most people consider me a miracle baby, not a ‘freak,’” she said. But the look in her eyes suggested this wasn’t the first time she’d heard the word freak used to describe her. I instantly liked her better, understanding that her prickliness was a defensive behavior.
“Usually,” Ethan continued, “a child of mixed blood will inherit primarily its mother’s … traits, for lack of a better word.”
“Maybe heritage is a better description,” Kimber suggested, having apparently shrugged off her hurt.
Ethan rolled that word around his mind for a moment, then nodded. “Yeah, I guess it is. So a child born of a Fae mother is much more Fae than human, and a child born of a human mother is much more human than Fae.”
“Which is why a child born of a Fae mother can’t pass from Avalon to the mortal world, and vice versa,” Kimber said.
Ethan nodded. “Exactly. But the most powerful Fae also have the most dominant genes. So when someone like Seamus Stuart has a child with a human woman, that child will be more Fae than the average half-blood. When the circumstances are just right, that child can be a literal half-blood, truly half human and half Fae. And instead of being affiliated solely with her mother’s realm, that child is affiliated with both realms.”
“They’re called Faeriewalkers,” Kimber said, “because they can pass freely from Avalon into Faerie, or into the mortal world, whichever they choose.”
“Which makes them powerful enough,” Ethan continued, and it was almost like the two of them had rehearsed this conversation, each memorizing their lines so they could trade off to maximum effect. “But what makes the Faeriewalkers even more powerful is that they can carry technology into Faerie.”
“And magic into the mortal world,” Kimber added.
I sat there gaping like an idiot, and I felt almost as dizzy as when … I shied away from the memory of looking over that guardrail into the misty distance.
I swallowed hard and finally found my voice. “Holy shit!” I said. I’m not usually much of a cusser, but if ever there were an occasion to start cussing, this would be it. This was way, way worse than I’d thought even in my wildest dreams. And here I’d come to Avalon in hopes of having a more normal life.
“So when I looked out into the distance…” I started, my voice sounding weird and scratchy.
Ethan nodded. “You were seeing what Faeriewalkers call the Glimmerglass—the window that looks out into the mortal world and Faerie at the same time. I’ve heard it’s … disorienting.”
I managed a nervous laugh as I wiped my clammy palms on my pants legs. “That’s one way to describe it.” I remembered the dizziness and nausea, the memory so strong my stomach lurched even now. “How many of us are there?” I asked, because there was no point in arguing I wasn’t a Faeriewalker. I wished I could convince myself I’d been hallucinating earlier, but I knew what I’d seen.
I felt, rather than saw, the look Ethan and Kimber exchanged. By some silent arrangement, it was Ethan who answered.
“The last one before you died about seventy-five years ago.”
I nodded sagely. And then I leapt to my feet, knocking over my chair, and barely made it to the bathroom in time to puke up my Cheerios.
I locked myself in the bathroom and stayed there for the better part of an hour. Kimber and Ethan each made one attempt to get me to come out, but they gave up when I didn’t answer. I’m sure they could have forced the door open if they’d wanted to, but luckily for me, they left me alone.
I’d always despised my mom for her drinking, but I swear, if there’d been any alcohol handy, I’d have tried some in hopes that it would make everything go away. I sat on the closed toilet, my knees drawn up to my chest, my arms wrapped around my legs, wondering if there was any way I could get myself out of this mess. Aunt Grace had said that even if I left Avalon, I’d be a target now that people knew about me. And since Grace had my passport, it wasn’t like I was getting out of Avalon anyway.
Tears stung my eyes. Why couldn’t my mother just be a normal mom? Why couldn’t she just go to some stupid twelve-step program and dry out? She’d never even tried. If she’d only tried to stop drinking, maybe I never would have gotten so fed up I had to run away, and none of this would have happened. Ididn’t need her to be perfect, I just needed her to be sober. Was that too much to ask?