“Mom is coming to Avalon,” I repeated, though I knew I’d heard correctly.

“Yes. She’ll be there tomorrow. She’s real worried about you, sweetie.”

Ugh. I didn’t know Frances anywhere near well enough for her to call me “sweetie.” Hell, I didn’t know anyone well enough for that. But if I tried to correct her, I’d just be on the phone with her longer.

“Thanks for taking care of the plants,” I said. “And if my mom checks in with you, please tell her to call me at my dad’s house.”

I hung up before Frances could answer. To hell with social niceties. My mom was coming to Avalon!

I could hardly believe it. First off, I could hardly believe she’d been sober enough to plan a trip like this at the last moment. Second, I could hardly believe she was just planning to show up out of nowhere. Shouldn’t she have called before taking such a drastic action? I hadn’t had any trouble finding Dad’s number, so she shouldn’t have, either.

Of course, if she’d called before yesterday, she wouldn’t have found me here. It made me wonder if my dad had spoken with her and neglected to tell me about it.

I turned off the light and lay down again, though I was no closer to sleep now than I had been before. I stared at the ceiling and wondered how badly I’d underestimated my mom. I’d fully expected her to get depressed and mopey because I’d left. I’d expected her to feel even more sorry for herself than she had before. Never in a million years would I have expected her to come after me.

Maybe a miracle was actually going to happen. Maybe my running away had finally been the splash of cold water in the face that made her realize what a mess she was making of her life. Maybe it would be the push she needed to get help and stop drinking.

I don’t know how long I lay there like that, wishing, hoping, praying, begging the universe to let it be true, but eventually I managed to fall asleep, and I didn’t wake up until after ten in the morning.

Finn looked almost back to normal the next morning when I came down for breakfast only to find my father already gone for the day. Even the shadows of the bruises were gone from his face, and he didn’t move like a man in pain anymore. I was glad the Fae heal so fast. It helped me feel a little less guilty about what had happened to him yesterday.

I did a double-take when I saw the stranger slumped in the love seat next to Finn. I knew on first sight that he was related to Finn somehow, because they both had the same amazing green eyes, but that was where the obvious resemblance ended. Where Finn’s hair was golden-blond, the stranger’s was dyed jet black, and where Finn was built like a Mack truck, the stranger was lean and wiry. He was also a lot younger than Finn, and he did not have Finn’s conservative taste in clothing. A faded black T-shirt clung to his chest, and his legs were poured into tight black jeans. Unlaced black combat boots spilled out from under those jeans, and the short sleeves of the T-shirt showed off the Celtic armband tattooed on his biceps. To top it all off, he had about fifty earrings in his left ear, and his hair swept across his brow, dangling almost in his eye.

I’d never been a big fan of the bad boys I’d met at school. They were always so full of themselves, and they thought acting like jerks made them cool. However, from a distance, they sure were nice to look at. And a Fae bad boy … Totally drool-worthy.

Finn smiled at me as I stood gaping in the doorway. “Your father gave the okay for your self-defense lessons,” he said. “This is Keane.” He gestured toward tall, dark, and surly. “He’ll be your teacher.”

Keane didn’t straighten up from his slouch, and the look he gave me was … unfriendly.

Finn smiled even more broadly, obviously enjoying himself. “If you can overlook the attitude,” he said, “Keane is an excellent teacher.”

Keane stared up at the ceiling like he was praying for strength. Call me crazy, but I had the feeling he wasn’t overly enthusiastic about this gig.

“Oh, stop sulking,” Finn said to him, but there was obvious affection in his voice. “Teaching her some basic self-defense won’t turn you into a conformist Knight clone like me.”

Keane snarled at him, but Finn was unimpressed.

“Are you two related?” I asked, though I’d already worked out for myself that they were. It wasn’t just the eyes, either, though I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Finn nodded. “Keane is my son.”

“Oh,” I blurted. “I didn’t know you were married.” I wanted to smack myself for the naive assumption even before Finn shook his head.

“Knights don’t marry,” Keane said before Finn had a chance.

“It’s traditional for Knights to remain single,” Finn confirmed. “Our loyalty is meant to belong only to those we serve. Of course, it’s also traditional for Knights not to raise their children.” He gave Keane a significant look.

Keane rolled his eyes. “Yeah, you’re a real loose cannon.”

Finn didn’t seem to mind his son talking back to him, smiling in what I would swear was genuine amusement. “Keane has never been very fond of the institution of Knighthood. He has broken with family tradition and declined to enter training as a Knight. I think he’s afraid the condition is contagious, and if he works with a principle I’ve been hired to protect, he will somehow’”

“Knock it off,” Keane grumbled, and despite the tough-guy thing he had going on, he looked embarrassed. Obviously, he had some problem with the idea of teaching me, but I had no idea what. Maybe he just didn’t like the idea of fighting with a girl?