I couldn’t help it. I laughed. “Yeah, luck central, that’s me.” The laughter morphed into a coughing fit. I was braced for the coughing to hurt my chest, but only the headache pain troubled me. “How long have I been here?” I had absolutely no sense of time at this point. It could have been hours or days.
“About four hours,” he said, and I was relieved that I hadn’t lost more time than that. “The healers took care of your physical injuries.”
Oh. That explained why the chest and throat and joint pains weren’t bugging me.
“But they can’t fix the sickness?” I guessed.
Finn shook his head. “The Fae don’t get sick, so our magic isn’t suited to curing illness, I’m afraid.”
In a way, I supposed that was a good thing. Otherwise every sick person in the world would be besieging Avalon. In fact, I bet even if the Fae healers could cure illnesses, they wouldn’t admit it. I could only imagine the chaos it would cause if a handful of people in one small city could, for instance, cure cancer.
I was already starting to feel exhausted just from the effort of simple concentration, but I managed one more question before I drifted back into sleep.
“How long am I in for?” I asked, not only because I hated being in the hospital—like any sensible person would—but because even with Finn guarding me, I wasn’t sure how safe I would be here.
“Probably a couple of days. The human doctors want to keep an eye on you, make sure your fever doesn’t get too high.”
I acknowledged my sentence with a heartfelt sigh, then rolled over and willed myself back to sleep.
The next time I woke up, it was because someone was gently shaking my shoulder.
“Come on, Dana,” I heard Finn say. “Wake up for a moment.”
The headache still pounded behind my eyes, and I was sweaty and cold at the same time. I didn’t much want to be awake for the experience, but I managed to pry my eyes open.
Finn was sitting on the edge of my bed, but my attention was immediately drawn to the mountain that stood just inside the doorway. The mountain named Lachlan.
I should have been alarmed to see him. He was Aunt Grace’s … boyfriend? Nah. I couldn’t see applying that term to Lachlan. But “lover” sounded so crass. I hated the term “significant other,” but I decided it was a fair compromise.
Anyway, I should have been spooked, but I wasn’t. Either the hospital had me on some really good drugs, or I figured Finn wouldn’t have let him in if he was a threat, or I just couldn’t see Lachlan in the role of villain. He had been pretty nice to me, even though he’d been holding me prisoner.
Finn smiled at me, but it looked like he wasn’t really used to smiling. It looked almost like it hurt him.
“Lachlan is here to relieve me for a while,” Finn said. “I wanted to wake you and assure you that you’re safe with him. He’s no Knight, but there are few who’d be foolish enough to take on a troll. And your father is confident Lachlan will not take you to Grace.”
I saw Lachlan wince. “Thanks,” I mumbled. I just wanted to go back to sleep. Being sick sucks.
Finn gave me one of his businesslike nods, then headed out without another word. Lachlan came to the bedside to tower over me. He looked … very sad. There was a shadow in his eyes that hadn’t been there before, and his shoulders were tight with tension and misery.
Tired as I was, I managed to smile up at him. “It’s all right, Lachlan,” I said. “I know you had nothing to do with what Aunt Grace did.” And I felt that truth to my bones. No matter what his relationship with Aunt Grace was, he wouldn’t sit by and let her kill someone. Or throw someone into the moat.
The tension in his shoulders relaxed, and he bowed his head. “Thank you.” He sighed heavily. “I don’t know what’s gotten into her.” He met my eyes with a pleading, earnest look. “She’s really not like that. She’s just…”
I could forgive Lachlan for being in love with Grace, but I really wasn’t open to hearing whatever excuses he had for her bad behavior. I guess he saw that, because he didn’t say anything more, just took a seat in what I was already coming to think of as Finn’s chair.
That was my cue to return to la-la land, and I was more than happy to obey.
I drifted in and out of sleep for the better part of the day, waking up only when the nurses came to take my temperature, give me drugs, or urge me to eat and drink. I was not in the mood for eating and drinking, and hospital food turned out to be hospital food, even in Avalon. But they threatened to hook me up to an IV if I didn’t keep myself fed and hydrated, so I did the best I could.
At one point, I woke up to find a huge bouquet of yellow roses on my bedside table. Turned out Ethan had stopped by to visit while I was sleeping and had chosen not to wake me. Just looking at them—and their cheerful, sunny color—made me smile. Interesting that he’d chosen to send me roses, even if they weren’t red or white. I suspected gifts of roses took on a whole different meaning and significance when you were Fae.
By late afternoon, I was finding it hard to stay asleep, even though I felt terrible when I was awake. Worse, I knew the ordeal of dinner wasn’t far in the future, because hospitals always seem to feed people early. At least, that had been the case in the American hospitals my mom had landed in a couple of times after drunken “mishaps.”
Lachlan was still on guard duty, but neither one of us was feeling particularly chatty, so we were sitting in not-quite-companionable silence when I had my second visitor of the day.