“Yeah, that’s pretty much what happened,” I said, my voice raspy with the tears I refused to shed.

“Are you all right?” he asked, sounding exactly how a concerned dad was supposed to sound. Was his concern an act, too? Would anyone in all of Avalon tell me the truth about anything?

“I’m fine,” I lied.

Dad hesitated. Any idiot would be able to tell from my voice that I was anything but fine, but I wasn’t ready to talk about it now. Maybe I never would be. Thankfully, he let it pass.

“Let me come get you,” he said. “We can talk more in person.”

“I’m at the Stone’s Throw Inn,” I said. “Room 201.”

“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes at the most.”

“Okay.” I closed Ethan’s phone without saying good-bye, leaving it on the nightstand.

chapter fourteen

The fifteen minutes I spent waiting for my dad to arrive provided me with ample time to wonder how my meeting him was going to shake out. Everyone I’d met in Avalon so far had lied to me, and in a way, my dad was one of them. After all, he’d sent me the cameo without telling me wearing it would be like saying I root for Team Seelie. And I’d always wondered why he’d sent for me as he did without once asking if my mom was okay with it. I’d been willing to overlook that little detail because I’d wanted what he was offering so badly, but now I thought I should have asked more questions.

I thought I’d hear my dad’s footsteps on the wooden stairs before he arrived at my door, but I didn’t. His sudden knock made me jump and gasp, and at first I didn’t answer him, my feet practically frozen to the floor.

“Dana?” he asked. “Are you all right, honey?”

I let out the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding and wiped my suddenly sweaty palms on my pants. Then I unlocked the door and swung it open wide, getting my first glimpse of my father.

The Fae, once they’ve reached adulthood, at least, are ageless. Intellectually, I knew that. But it didn’t lessen the shock of opening the door to a man I knew was my father and seeing someone who could have passed for twenty-five.

He had a typical Fae build, tall and slender, but he exuded a sense of wiry strength. His hair was very blond, cropped short around his aristocratic face. His eyes were the same cold blue as Grace’s—and mine, for that matter—but there was a kind of … weight to them that made him look older. Despite the youthful appearance of his face, his eyes were not those of a young man.

“Dana,” he said, his voice sounding almost awed as he looked me up and down. I felt like I was being inspected, but since I was doing the same to him, I could hardly complain.

For a moment, I thought he was going to hug me, and I tensed. I’m not a real touchy-feely person in the best of times, which these weren’t.

I was more relieved than I could say when he reached out his hand for me to shake instead. Ah, the famed Fae reserve. I’d almost forgotten about it, since Ethan didn’t fit the mold.

I shied away from thoughts of Ethan.

“Hi, Dad,” I said, feeling inexplicably weird calling him that. It hadn’t felt so weird on the phone.

“My poor child,” he said softly, giving my hand a firm squeeze. “I can’t imagine what you’ve been through these last few days.”

I shuddered. No, he probably couldn’t.

“Let’s get you home,” he continued. “I’ve collected your suitcase and your laptop from Grace.” He smiled. “I suspect you’ll be more comfortable in your own clothes.”

“Before we go,” I said, “I’d like to ask you something.”

He nodded gravely. “All right.”

“Why were you so eager for me to come to Avalon?”

He blinked in surprise. “I discover I have a daughter whom I’ve never met, and it’s a surprise that I would want to meet you?” he asked incredulously.

“But you never even asked about my mom. You never thought it was funny that you only ever talked to me about the plans. There’s more to it than just wanting to meet me.” My throat tightened, but I think I managed to keep the pain of that declaration out of my voice.

Dad sighed. “Dana, I knew what it meant that your mother disappeared from my life without telling me she was pregnant. I knew it meant she wanted to keep you away from me. From the first time you and I talked, I knew you were going behind her back, and she would have stopped you if she’d known.”

It sounded plausible, I had to admit. But if there was one thing I knew for sure now, it was that all my mom’s warnings about my difficult place in Avalon politics were true. Maybe my dad really was eager to meet his long-lost daughter just for my own sake, but I didn’t think so.

“So your wanting to meet me has nothing to do with you wanting to be Consul and me maybe being a Faeriewalker.”

Ethan and Kimber had lied about a lot of things, but I could see right away from the look on his face that this wasn’t one of them. This silence was even longer than the last. When he finally broke the silence, I could tell he was picking his words with great care.

“I understand that my position might make it hard for you to trust my motives. Yes, I would like to be Consul. But I wanted to meet you because you’re my daughter, not because you were part of my political ambitions.”

My throat tightened again. He was telling me exactly what I wanted to hear. I wanted it to be true so, so badly.