“You turned them mortal,” Keane repeated flatly. I wasn’t sure he quite believed me, but whether he believed me or not, he was plenty mad that this was the first he was hearing about it. He shifted his gaze from me to Ethan. “And you knew about this. Don’t lie—you obviously weren’t surprised by what she said.” And yeah, Ethan knowing something he didn’t was not going to put Keane in his happy place.
“I knew,” Ethan admitted. “I’m the one who told her not to tell anyone, and if you care about her at all, you’ll keep your mouth shut and try to forget she said anything. People feel threatened enough by her powers as it is.”
Keane said something snarly in response, but I couldn’t hear it over the pounding of my heart when I risked a glance at Kimber’s face. Keane was mad at me for keeping such a big secret, but Kimber …
She’d handled learning the secret of my bargain with the Erlking pretty well, and she hadn’t punched me out when she learned about the mark, either. But this was apparently the camel’s last straw.
“I shouldn’t be surprised,” she said in a furious undertone. “You’ve lied about so many things, why not one more?”
I flinched from the anger and hurt in her eyes. “Ethan is the only person who knew. I didn’t even tell my father.” I realized I was telling yet another lie, but this time it was by accident. I’d allowed myself to forget that the Erlking knew about my power, too. I was going to clarify, but Kimber didn’t give me a chance.
“You know what, Dana?” she cried, pushing to her feet so fast she almost fell over. “You can take your secrets and your lies and you can shove them! You and my brother are like peas in a pod, and you deserve each other.”
Kimber turned her back and scrambled up the bank of the stream, disappearing into the underbrush in an adrenaline-and-anger-fueled sprint. I wanted to follow her, but I doubted I could catch up to her, not with her Fae speed, and even if I did, there wasn’t anything I could say that she’d want to hear right now.
Keane looked back and forth between Ethan and me, and I could see he was torn between going after Kimber and staying to make sure Ethan didn’t try anything.
“Go after her,” I begged him. “She’s upset enough she could get into trouble.” Even with her good sense of direction, I was afraid she’d get herself lost in the woods if the energy from her rage kept her running long enough. Not to mention that there were people hunting us.
Keane glared at Ethan. “If anything happens to Dana while I’m gone, I will kill you. Understand?” He looked like he meant it, too.
“Got it,” Ethan said. “Now bring Kimber back so I don’t have to kill you.”
Keane gave him one more bone-chilling glare before clearing the bank in a ridiculously graceful leap and tearing off in the direction Kimber had gone.
I felt like crying, but that was a cop-out. I’d chosen to keep my secrets, even from the people who were supposed to be my best friends; it was time to face the consequences of my decisions.
Thanks to my mom, her drinking, and our constant moving from town to town, I’d learned that the only person I could ever fully trust was myself. I knew this wasn’t a good way to go about life, but time and time again, when I’d put my faith in my mom, the only constant in my life, she’d let me down. I’d let that turn me into a suspicious, secretive little bitch, and that wasn’t the kind of person I wanted to be. I should have trusted Kimber with the truth, and I didn’t know if I could ever make it up to her.
“I suck,” I said beneath my breath.
Ethan laughed, but it was a bitter, haunted laugh. “Maybe Kimber’s right and we deserve each other. Two natural-born liars.” He closed his eyes and thunked the back of his head against the wall of dirt and roots behind him.
“You were supposed to comfort me and tell me I don’t suck.” God, how pathetically needy I sounded.
Ethan opened his eyes and met my gaze. “I’m the one who told you to lie about it in the first place. And in case you didn’t get the mental telepathy message I was trying to send you, I wanted you to lie about it again just now. In other words, I suck, not you.”
I tried to run my hand through my hair in frustration, but it was a dirty, snarly mess. I had a mirror somewhere in my backpack, but I had no desire to see how hideous I looked right now.
“Maybe I should have lied again,” I said. I wouldn’t even have had to say anything. All I had to do was keep quiet and let the lie stand, and Kimber wouldn’t now be running blindly into the woods, hating my guts.
“And maybe you were right to tell the truth. It’s not like I have all the answers.”
I wrapped my arms around my legs and laid my chin on my knees, hurting, heartsick, and exhausted both mentally and physically. I had screwed up so many times, and it was mostly the people I cared about who suffered for it instead of me. That was just … wrong.
“Come here,” Ethan said, beckoning with a jerk of his chin. “I can’t give you a proper hug with my hands tied, but we can sort of pretend.”
Was he hoping to lure me into untying his hands?
I wanted to slap myself as soon as that thought crossed my nasty, suspicious mind. Two seconds ago, I was thinking about how I needed to trust people more.
Ethan nudged me with the tip of his shoe, which was all he could reach me with.
“Hey, it’s okay. I’m not offended that you don’t trust me right now. You know I may not be myself.”