When Dad came home that night, however, I decided his little manipulative tricks were the least of my worries. Because, you see, he’d had another meeting with Grace and Alistair, and the Big Three had come to an agreement as to where I would live, the “safe house” that would supposedly keep the bad guys from finding me.

I had a sneaking suspicion that Mom’s threats to take me out of Avalon without Dad’s approval had inspired the Big Three to come to an agreement faster than they might have otherwise. I also suspected that I’d have a much harder time escaping from the safe house than from my dad’s place. Dad told me they planned to have the place ready as soon as tomorrow, so whatever I was going to do, I’d have to do it fast.

I had two major problems to solve if I hoped to go home with Mom. First, I had to get out of the house. Second, I had to get out of Avalon. The first should be manageable, as long as I waited until Dad was asleep at night. I wasn’t getting by Finn no matter what, but Dad could hardly expect me to try to sneak out alone in the middle of the night. Naturally, he would assume I wasn’t that stupid. I tried not to think about the terrible things that could happen to me if the bad guys found me wandering the streets of Avalon alone at night.

The second problem was tougher to figure out. How could I get out of Avalon without a passport? Hell, even if I miraculously made it through the border and into England without my passport, I wouldn’t be able to get back into the United States without one. I was sure I could arrange to get a new one in London, but that would take time, and Mom and I had to get well and truly gone as fast as possible.

The inevitable conclusion was that I needed my passport. But if I asked my dad about it, that would put him on his guard, particularly when he knew Mom planned to “rescue” me from him.

I was completely stymied. Yeah, I could try searching the house for the passport, but I couldn’t guarantee it was here, and my chances of getting caught and putting Dad on high alert were too great. I supposed it was a good thing that passports are hard to forge, but I was finding it rather inconvenient at the moment.

And then I reminded myself where I was: Avalon. The Wild City, the Magic City. If I couldn’t forge a passport with technology, might magic do the trick? I remembered the dismal little room in the tunnels that Ethan had taken me to, the one no one would ever know was there because of the illusion spell Ethan had cast. If he could create a wall that wasn’t there, could he create a passport?

It was a crazy idea. Even if Ethan really could pull it off, I had to be out of my mind to even think about asking him. He was the enemy, after all. Well, maybe not the enemy exactly, but he was definitely a lying jerk who had his own—and his father’s—best interests at heart.

Then again, he had taken quite a risk approaching me at Starbucks the other day to tell me the truth about the Spriggan attack. Finn had been on a hair trigger, and he could easily have flattened Ethan. And Ethan could have just had his father warn my father. The fact that he’d talked to me personally instead told me he probably really did feel bad about what he’d done.

Bad enough to help me escape Avalon?

I gnawed my lip. Even if he wanted to help me, he might think the same way my dad did, that I was safer in Avalon than in the mortal world. I let the idea ping around in my brain the rest of the evening. Dad couldn’t help but notice my less-than-lovely mood, but though he tried to talk to me a few times, he didn’t push.

I watched TV with him for a bit, my arms crossed over my chest, my shoulders hunched. I hoped I wasn’t laying it on too thick. Probably not, because Dad looked relieved when I finally announced I wasn’t in the mood for TV and wanted to spend some time surfing the Net.

When I got upstairs, I closed my bedroom door, then booted up my computer. I’d bookmarked the Avalon phone directory when I’d been looking for my dad, so I had no trouble finding it again. I then held my breath as I entered Ethan’s name into the search field. I sighed in relief when his number popped up. Then I kind of laughed at myself, because it was way too early to feel anything even resembling relief. I didn’t know what the chances were that Ethan could help me, or that he would help me. But I was about to find out.

I surfed to an Internet radio station and turned the volume up on my computer. If Dad was spying on me and wanted to listen in on my call, all he had to do was pick up another receiver, but at least with the music blasting he wouldn’t be able to overhear me accidentally if he for some reason came to check on me.

I then went through a few repetitions of picking up the phone, starting to dial, then chickening out and hanging up, before I finally punched in Ethan’s number. I don’t know if I’d have had the courage to try again if Ethan hadn’t been home, but luckily he picked up before I chickened out yet again.

“Hello?” he said.

My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, and I sat there like an idiot not saying anything. How could I possibly be asking help from a guy who (1) could have gotten me killed by arranging for me to be attacked, and (2) had used magic to try to seduce me for political reasons?

“Hello?” he repeated. “Anyone there?”

Then again, it wasn’t like I was just overflowing with options. I cleared my throat, and that loosened it up enough for me to talk. “Yeah. It’s me. Dana.” I rolled my eyes at myself. I’m sure he recognized my voice without me having to tell him my name.

There was a half-second hesitation before he answered. “Well, this is a surprise,” he said in a low mumble I’m not sure I was supposed to hear. “Is everything all right?”