Something told me that the Fae had no problem with “cruel and unusual” punishment, and that I didn’t want to find myself a prisoner in Faerie. “But he couldn’t really arrest us, could he? He doesn’t have any authority in Avalon.”

“Authority, no. But he has influence aplenty. If he requested extradition, I doubt the Council would find grounds to deny him.” He smiled gently at me. “It is not only the Fae who feel threatened by you.”

That was a reminder I could have done without.

“You see now why we have to accept,” my dad said. “Our choices are to go as honored guests or reviled prisoners. I prefer the former, don’t you?”

“I still think going is a bad idea,” I said, though with considerably less conviction than before.

“I’ll take that under advisement,” he said, then urged me to start walking again.

*   *   *

I barely slept that night, my mind spinning as I tried to figure out how to convince my dad to see things my way—without having us both dragged off to Faerie in chains. There was a part of me that wanted to go to Faerie, to see the world that no other human being could ever see. That part of me said that maybe my dad was right, and maybe a trip to the heart of the Seelie Court would be perfectly safe and lead to getting my enemies off my back. But living with my mom and her alcoholism had given me a heavy streak of realism—or pessimism, depending on your point of view—and I felt little hope that things would go that well.

I finally fell asleep at some ungodly hour and was awakened the next morning by the ringing of my phone. Barely conscious, I reached for the phone and hit a few buttons until I got the right one.

“Hello?” I said in my lovely, too-early-in-the-morning croak.

“I heard the news!” Kimber said in a voice that was just short of a squeal.

Kimber is my best friend, and really the closest friend I’ve ever had. When I was growing up, my mom kept us constantly moving, because she didn’t want my dad to find us. (Not that Dad could have come into the mortal world, but if he’d known I was out there, I don’t doubt he’d have sent humans to track me down.) Moving so often made it hard enough to make friends, but when you add in my mom’s alcoholism and my desperate need to keep it hidden, you have a dedicated loner on your hands. In a lot of ways, Kimber was the best thing that had happened to me since I’d come to Avalon. Ethan, her older brother and my sort-of boyfriend, might object to me saying that, but my relationship with him was a whole lot more complicated.

“Heard what news?” I yawned and wished I could get a coffee IV. A glance at the clock showed me it wasn’t all that early, but I’d been deeply asleep and my body wanted to get back to it.

“You’re going to be presented at Court!”

The memory woke me up in a hurry. Too bad I couldn’t have at least a few minutes of sleep-addled amnesia before I had to think about going to Faerie. “Why do you sound so excited about it?” I asked. She sounded like she was going to start jumping up and down and clapping with glee at any moment.

Kimber hesitated, like she wasn’t expecting my surly response. “Um, well, it’s a big honor. You get to go to Faerie and meet the Queen and you’ll be a guest in the palace.”

I guess it did sound rather exciting, if you left out the part about potentially getting killed in the process—or the part about being arrested on some trumped-up charge if you didn’t go. I didn’t suppose Kimber knew about that, and I didn’t see any reason to rain on her parade with the grim truth.

“But the best part,” Kimber continued enthusiastically, “is you get to wear a court dress!”

I stifled a groan. Kimber is an incredible girly-girl when it comes to clothes. She loves to dress up, and the fancier and frillier the outfit, the more she likes it. Me, I’m more a jeans-and-hoodie sort of girl.

“I don’t know what a court dress is,” I said, “but if you’re this excited about it, I bet I’m going to hate it.”

She sighed happily. “You’re going to be absolutely stunning! But if you’re leaving in two days, we need to get you in with the dressmaker, like, now.”

“Dressmaker?” That sounded worse than I’d imagined.

“Of course, silly. You don’t wear something off the rack to be presented at Court. As if you could even find a court dress off the rack. Has your dad set up an appointment yet?”

“How should I know? I didn’t even know I was going to need some fancy dress for this thing.” I instantly regretted being so snappish about it. “Sorry. I’m not exactly down with this whole plan, but I shouldn’t take it out on you.”

“It’ll be all right,” Kimber assured me. “No one would dare attack you when you’re a guest of the Queen. They take matters of etiquette very seriously in Faerie. You’ll be perfectly safe.”

“Yeah, that’s what my dad said. I just have a bad feeling about the whole thing.”

“You always have a bad feeling about something, so you should be used to it by now.”

“Ha-ha. Very funny.”

“Well, someone got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning!”

I snorted. “No, someone hasn’t gotten out of bed at all yet. And some other people should know better than to call at oh-dark-thirty in the morning.”

Kimber laughed. “I don’t think ten o’clock counts as oh-dark-thirty. Besides, you have to get your butt in gear. You’ve got a lot to do before you leave. Now get out of bed and go see if your dad’s set up an appointment for you.”