It was after midnight when we finally got away. Even then, we didn’t talk much. At first, it was because there were too many people around. Avalon didn’t have much of a night life, but some parts of the city were more lively than others, and the Consul’s mansion was in one of the hot spots.
Because I had such powerful enemies, I didn’t live in the city proper with my dad. Instead, I lived in a safe house, hidden deep inside the mountain on which Avalon is built. There’s an extensive tunnel system under the city, some of it populated and some of it not. My safe house was in a very definitely unpopulated section, although my dad had somehow arranged for me to have all the modern conveniences like electricity and water and Internet.
I had a kind of love/hate relationship with that safe house. On the one hand, I did feel pretty safe there, which was nice when people were constantly trying to kill me. On the other hand, I felt horribly isolated and longed for a normal house, one with windows I could look out of, or with a convenient little grocery store right around the corner.
It didn’t matter where in Avalon we were—getting to my safe house was always a hike. Tiresome at the best of times, but much worse when my high heels were killing my feet and my dad was ignoring the conversational elephant in the room.
I waited a while to see if he was going to say anything, but as far as I could tell, he was lost in his own thoughts. When we made our way into the unpopulated section of the tunnel system, and my dad switched on the flashlight he carried, I slipped off my shoes with a sigh of relief. The floor of the tunnel was cold and dusty, but I didn’t care as long as I didn’t have to wear the heels anymore.
“Okay, Dad,” I said, “it’s time you clue me in on what we’re going to do about this invitation.”
Dad shook his head, the corners of his mouth tight with displeasure. “There isn’t much we can do about it. As I’m sure you figured out, it wasn’t so much an invitation as a summons.”
“So? I’m not a member of the Seelie Court.” Despite everyone’s assumption that because my dad was Seelie, I was Seelie. “And you’re a citizen of Avalon,” I reminded him, though I didn’t expect it to do much good. My dad was Seelie to the bone, and no amount of time living in Avalon was going to change that.
“You wouldn’t be in danger,” Dad said, ignoring my argument completely. “If you’re appearing in Court in answer to the Queen’s summons, you’d be protected by the laws of courtesy. It wouldn’t matter if you were her worst enemy—she’d make sure you were safe until you returned to Avalon.”
“Hold on,” I said, stopping in my tracks, because I really didn’t like the sound of that. “You’re not seriously considering going, are you?”
Dad looked at me grimly. “We’re going,” he told me, making no attempt to sugarcoat the truth that I had no say in the matter. “If Titania has chosen to honor you with a presentation at Court, you have to go.”
“But she wants to kill me!” She’d let me know that when she’d sent a couple of her Knights into Avalon to jump me, only it hadn’t been me who ended up getting hurt. To get her message across, the Knights had beaten my bodyguard, Finn, to within an inch of his life, and he hadn’t defended himself because they’d threatened to kill me if he did. They’d then pinned him to the floor by driving a knife through his shoulder and warned that I would be next if I didn’t get out of Avalon and stay out. The knife had had a white rose—the symbol of the Seelie Court—inlaid on its handle.
“I’m no longer so sure about that,” Dad said.
I shook my head. “Those Knights left that dagger behind for a reason,” I argued. “I think the message was loud and clear.”
“Yes, but there’s no guarantee they were sent by Titania. Certainly they meant to imply it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s true.”
None of this was making a whole lot of sense to me. “Let me get this straight: just a few hours ago, you were completely convinced Titania wanted me dead, and now a few words from Prince Henry has you convinced it was all a big misunderstanding?”
“Convinced? No. But I’m willing to entertain the possibility. And even if she was behind it, this summons suggests she’s changed her mind.”
“And you’re willing to risk my life based on what could be wishful thinking.” My dad was so overprotective I lived underground and had a bodyguard. It made no sense that he’d suddenly be okay with the idea of me waltzing into Faerie.
Dad put his hands on my shoulders, focusing his intense blue gaze on me. “I’m afraid you don’t understand, Dana. We don’t have a choice. Henry insinuated that we might have been involved in Grace’s plot and that he has orders to arrest us if we decline the invitation.”
I blinked in surprise. “Where was I when this happened?” I asked, although I’d been at Dad’s side all night.
“‘One would not want to foster the impression that there is bad blood between your family and the Queen after your sister’s unfortunate actions,’” Dad quoted in a fair imitation of Henry’s pompous tone.
I shook my head. “And that meant he was threatening to arrest us?”
“He went out of his way to bring it up, and he made sure to remind us she was a member of our family. It might not have been an overt threat, but he knew I’d understand exactly what he meant.”