I hugged him back, my throat tightening up so much I couldn’t talk. Sometimes, I felt like my dad saw me as nothing more than a tool to help further his political ambitions. Then there were times like these, when he let me see what lay beneath his polished exterior, and I realized he really did love me. And I loved him right back.
Dad broke the hug before I had a chance to say something sappy and started guiding me back to the caravan. The Knights were still blocking the road, and I saw that Kimber and Keane had joined Ethan and Finn, waiting for me just beyond the barricade. Maybe it was my imagination, but I could have sworn I felt the Erlking’s eyes on me the entire time.
I looked back over my shoulder as the line of Knights parted to let us through. Arawn gave me a jaunty wave, then turned his horse and led his Hunt back down the road away from us. I had no doubt he’d be staying close on our tail, even if he was pretending to go away.
The Knights finally relaxed, and the rest of the prince’s people lost interest as the Wild Hunt rode away. Except for the prince, that is. Surrounded by his Knights—not a mark on him and not a hair out of place—he stormed in our direction with murder in his eyes. This didn’t look good.
Dad put his arm around my shoulder and made a little shooing motion at my friends. “I suggest you retreat,” he said. “This may get unpleasant.”
Ethan drew himself up, all offended dignity. “I’m not the type to run away from trouble.”
Keane and Kimber both took up similarly stubborn stances. Maybe they all thought they could help protect me, but if the prince had his panties in a twist, I didn’t think it fair for my friends to be caught in the middle.
“Just give us a little space, guys,” I begged them. “I’ll be fine.”
I think they were planning to argue some more, but Finn put one hand on each guy’s shoulder and started pulling them out of the way. Keane tried to break his father’s hold, to no avail, and Ethan didn’t even bother to try. With an apologetic shrug, Kimber hurried after them.
Just in time, too, because Henry was practically on top of us. Everyone else had scattered at the sight of Henry’s fury. I didn’t know what he was so pissed off about, seeing as he was the one who’d led us into an ambush. An ambush I couldn’t help suspecting he had something to do with.
“What is the meaning of bringing the Wild Hunt here?” he spat, and I didn’t know if he was talking to me or my dad.
My dad decided Henry was talking to him and answered. “I didn’t bring them here. I’m sure they were just following, and Dana happened into them when her horse carried her away.” There was a sharp edge to those words, and I wondered if Dad suspected that someone had cast a compulsion spell on Phaedra, as the Erlking believed.
Henry chose to ignore the implications, instead curling his lip as he looked at me. “Interesting company you keep. Unseelie friends and the Wild Hunt at your beck and call. Perhaps my mother made a mistake by inviting you into our lands.”
Probably the smart thing to do would have been to keep my mouth shut and let my dad handle the obnoxious jerk of a prince. But keeping my mouth shut isn’t my way.
“At least I didn’t lead us into an ambush,” I countered. “And it was nice of you to make sure all your Knights were gathered around you while the rest of us were under attack.”
Beside me, Dad made a little choking sound. I couldn’t tell if it was smothered laughter or alarm. I did know that the prince was not amused. He glared at me as if he hated me more than anyone in the world.
“Perhaps we would not have been ambushed if you hadn’t insisted on bringing your Unseelie companions!” he snapped.
It was my turn to sputter with outrage. “You seriously mean to tell me you think Ethan and Kimber arranged for us to be attacked?”
The outrage lost a little of its steam when I remembered Ethan arranging for me to be attacked by a Spriggan, back when I’d first come to Avalon. Well, actually, it was Ethan’s dad who arranged the attack, but Ethan was in on it. He was supposed to save me from the Spriggan so he could be my hero and I would fall madly in love with him. Things had gone horribly wrong, because of course things always do when I’m around, but I’d long ago forgiven Ethan. And I was sure he had nothing to do with the Bogles.
Henry made a sour face. “They are no friends of the Seelie Court, and—”
“Really, Henry,” my father interrupted. “They live in Avalon, and their father preaches that citizens of Avalon should not align themselves with a Court. Look first to your own people before you accuse mine.”
“You dare!” Henry spat, as if he’d never heard anything so outrageous in his life. His cheeks were growing red with anger. My dad hadn’t been exaggerating when he said he was good at rousing Henry’s temper.
I noticed a couple of Henry’s Knights edging closer, watching my father and me with suspicious eyes, like they thought we were about to attack their prince. But my dad’s voice remained calm and level as Henry’s grew more shrill. If anyone was going to attack, it would be Henry.
“My daughter is supposed to be under your protection,” my dad said. “And yet an attempt was made on her life right under your nose. The Bogles did not venture so far into Seelie territory without some interference, nor would my daughter’s horse have run off with her like that. The obvious conclusion is that someone in your party arranged it.”
Henry clearly didn’t know how to quit when he was behind. “Perhaps it is you yourself who arranged the attack,” he said. His face was now almost purple with rage, and his voice had gone up about an octave. “As a way to discredit me!”