“So that’s what happened to the Princes? The Knight and the Faeriewalker kidnapped them and took them to Faerie?”

“Yes.”

“So what happened to them when they got to Faerie?”

Dad looked grim and unhappy. “Mortals cannot survive in Faerie. Not without a Faeriewalker’s special magic protecting them. The Faeriewalker abandoned them there, and they died. Are you beginning to see why your being a Faeriewalker is a ‘big deal’?”

Yeah, that was getting obvious. No wonder no one knew for sure what had happened to the Princes. They hadn’t taken into account the possibility of a magical abduction into Faerie.

“Having a Faeriewalker on one’s side is rather like having a nuclear weapon. Even if one never intends to deploy it, the threat is a potent one. Grace wished to win you to her side by force; Alistair wanted to win you to his side by having his children ingratiate themselves to you.”

I raised my chin, hating to be reminded of Ethan. “And you?” I asked. “How do you plan to get me on your side?”

He smiled at me, leaning over and covering one of my hands with his. “By being your father. By protecting you, and by treating you kindly. And by being honest with you.”

I gently extracted my hand from under his, not quite ready for physical signs of affection yet. “I like your way better,” I muttered under my breath.

He smiled again, and his eyes twinkled. “I’m rather counting on that.”

I went to bed that night cautiously optimistic about my situation. I certainly felt safer, more comfortable, and more free now than I had since I’d first set eyes on Aunt Grace. But I couldn’t help wondering if Dad’s attitude toward me would change if I stopped doing what he wanted me to do. Would he still treat me “kindly” then? Or would the claws come out? Because I knew he had some, even if he hadn’t shown them to me yet.

chapter eighteen

The next day dawned as what I was beginning to think of as a typical Avalon summer day. Meaning it was damp and cloudy with a very un-summer-like chill in the air. I slept in, enjoying the novelty of sleeping in a relatively comfortable bed. The futon wasn’t as bad as I’d expected, and the sheets were soft against my skin.

I showered and got dressed, going for another pair of cargo pants, this time with a T-shirt and a hoodie. I was glad to be going shopping again today, because I was going to need some warmer clothes. I’d known it wouldn’t be as warm here as in the States, but the damp added an extra bite to the chill that I hadn’t been prepared for.

I shoved what I had left of Dad’s money—which was most of it—into one of the cargo pockets, then headed downstairs to wait for Kimber. I could tell last night that Dad wasn’t thrilled with the idea of me hanging out with “the enemy,” but he hadn’t tried to forbid it. I gave him major kudos for that.

I’d expected to find my dad downstairs, but instead found Finn, sitting on the living room sofa. He was dressed much like he’d been yesterday, though his jacket was draped over the arm of the sofa, and his dark glasses were tucked into his shirt pocket. I’d been bummed about having him hanging over my shoulder yesterday, but right now I didn’t mind the idea quite as much.

“Where’s my dad?” I asked as I headed to the kitchen to see if I could scrounge up some coffee.

“At work,” Finn answered. “I’m afraid you’re stuck with me again.”

“I’ll find a way to live with it,” I said over my shoulder, and I think Finn might have laughed, though it was so short and quiet I almost missed it.

My hopes for a good cup of coffee were dashed when I saw Dad didn’t even have a coffeepot. There was plenty of tea, but even if I’d known how to make loose tea, I’d have skipped it. I did eventually find a jar of instant coffee, which I finally decided was better than nothing. I wasn’t sure that was true after I tasted it, but I forced it down for medicinal purposes.

Kimber showed up promptly at ten in a disgustingly cheerful mood. I’d never been that big a shopper myself—it was hard to get too enthused about shopping when you were counting every penny, hoping you’d be able to pay the electric bill. But I had to admit, with Kimber, it was fun. She had an awesome eye, and practically everything she suggested I try on looked fabulous on me, if I do say so myself.

Being a practical sort, I stayed focused on buying the basics—sweaters, long-sleeved shirts, and heavier pants, in various blends of cotton and wool. But Kimber was constantly egging me on to buy more extravagant stuff—dresses, skirts, frilly blouses. Like I said, she had a great eye, but though I tried everything on, I just couldn’t see spending money on things I’d never get to wear. My “boring” selections annoyed her to no end.

“You have to buy something fun,” she pouted at me when we left yet another shop without any silk, velvet, or lace in my bag. Finn was already carrying so many bags for me he looked like a very hot porter, but I still had more than two hundred euros left. And I had to admit, the idea of splurging on something completely impractical did have some appeal.

Kimber must have sensed my weakness. “I know!” she said, her eyes lighting up with excitement. “My birthday’s next month, and I’ll be having a great party. We should start hunting for the perfect dress for you.”

I gaped at her. “You expect me to wear a dress for a birthday party?”

Kimber stuck her nose in the air, reminding me briefly of her ice-princess act. “It’s my party, my rules. And I happen to like dresses.”