“You’re right; I don’t.” I took another sip of my mocha, and noticed my hand was shaking. I was keeping the pain tightly contained, but it wouldn’t take much for it to burst out of my skin, and I refused to be responsible for what happened when it did.

Ethan took a deep breath, as though he were the one who was hurting. “Before I tell you what I need to tell you, I want you to know that I would never, ever have let any harm come to you.”

Oh, crap. This didn’t sound good at all. I decided maybe I’d better put my mocha down, because if my hand shook any harder I’d be wearing it. My hands clenched into fists, and I looked at Ethan with what I’m sure was an expression of pure dread. The fact that he looked just as bad as I felt did not bode well.

“It’s about the Spriggan attack,” he said. “I know Kimber told you they were after me, and she truly did believe that. She wasn’t in on it.”

“In on what?” I asked, my voice so faint I was surprised he could hear me.

Ethan let out a heavy sigh. “The Spriggan attack.”

I swallowed on a dry throat. “Kimber wasn’t in on the Spriggan attack. Meaning you were.” Because there was no other way to interpret his words.

He grimaced. “Yes. Sort of. But it wasn’t supposed to be like that.”

I’ll give Ethan one thing: he had the courage to look me in the eye when he told me just how much of a bastard he’d been.

“I was supposed to win you over to our side,” Ethan said. “My father’s side, that is. I wanted you to be grateful to me, and not just for getting you out of Grace’s clutches.”

“So you arranged for me to be attacked?” I asked, my voice an unflattering squeak. “You let those creatures hurt your friends? They could have been killed!” I leapt to my feet, but Ethan reached out to grab my arm.

“Let me finish,” he said.

The cameo heated, and the nasty prickling started again. I saw Finn coming toward us. But if I let him interfere now, I might never hear the whole story. And no matter how much it hurt, I needed to know the whole story.

I sat down with a thud. Ethan let go of me, and I waved Finn off. Once more, the prickling stopped and the cameo cooled. It had to have something to do with magic, though why it was suddenly making me feel like an electric eel, I didn’t know.

Ethan took another deep breath. “Yes, my father and I arranged for you to be attacked. That’s how the Spriggans found us in the cave. But Dana, it was only supposed to be one Spriggan, and it was supposed to ignore everyone else and come straight to you. That’s why I was sitting by your side the whole time, so the Spriggan would have to go through me. It would have scared you, but I’d have been way more than a match for one Spriggan. I would have gotten to play the dashing hero, and no one would have gotten hurt.

“I swear to you, Dana. Neither my father nor I would ever want any harm to come to you. We wanted to win you to our side, not hurt you. But obviously, something went wrong, and the Spriggans attacked in numbers. And whatever went wrong, it wasn’t an accident.”

“Huh?”

“My father and I would never have sent them to hurt you. But someone did. Someone found out what we were planning and upped the stakes, as it were.”

I decided I needed more mocha despite my shaking hands. Actually, what I really needed was one of Kimber’s possets, extra-strength. I barely tasted the mocha as I swallowed.

“So what you’re trying to tell me, even though you haven’t come right out and said so, is that you think someone’s trying to kill me.” He’d hinted darkly before that Aunt Grace might try to make me disappear, but as much as it frightened me, the threat had never seemed terribly real to me.

“Yes. And I have no idea who. I’m sure your father is keeping you well guarded.” His eyes flicked toward Finn then back to me. “But he should be aware of what’s at stake.”

I shook my head. “Why did you tell me?” I asked. “You could have just told my dad.” And if there was any mercy in the world, my dad wouldn’t have told me, and I wouldn’t have to deal with yet another blow.

Ethan looked down at his hands. “I didn’t tell your father because I thought you deserved to hear it from me. And if you’d like to have your Knight beat the crap out of me, I won’t complain.” He glanced up at Finn again. “I think he’d enjoy it.”

It made a nice fantasy. Too bad I wasn’t ruthless enough to actually do it.

“Do you have any other bombshells to drop, or are we through here?” I asked.

Ethan looked miserable. I was spitefully glad. “I’ve said what I needed to say,” he said.

I picked up my mocha and stood. The cup was still almost half-full, but I didn’t want it anymore. Besides, it was now lukewarm. Which meant I didn’t have to worry I was scalding him when I tossed the remains in Ethan’s face.

I think Finn might have cracked a smile as he held the door open for me, but I wasn’t sure.

chapter seventeen

My retail therapy hadn’t worked as well as I’d hoped. All I had to show for my shopping spree was that single bag from Victoria’s Secret, but although instinct told me my dad wouldn’t be happy that I’d made such little use of his gift, I just couldn’t see continuing after my chat with Ethan. Not that I’d been having that great a time to start with.

I thought sure Finn was going to ask me about my conversation with Ethan, especially after the whole mocha-in-the-face thing, but he didn’t say a word. His social skills could use some work. Then again, I wasn’t real anxious to talk about it, so the silence wasn’t completely unwelcome.