With a sigh of resignation, I slipped the brooch back into my own pocket. I hoped I wouldn’t need to use it.
* * *
Kimber and Keane were gone long enough that I began to worry about them. If they’d been gone even five minutes longer, I probably would have gone out in search of them, no matter how dangerous it was for someone with my sense of direction to go wandering around in the woods alone.
I sighed with relief when I heard their voices approaching, but when they jumped down into the hollow with Ethan and me, I sensed trouble was about to start. Again.
There was a distinctive red mark on Kimber’s neck, and the tiny buttons on the bodice of her sundress were mis-buttoned. As if that weren’t bad enough, Keane was looking unbearably smug, and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to guess what he and Kimber had been up to for all the time they were gone. Maybe he’d thought he was “comforting” her.
Once upon a time, Keane had made it obvious—without ever saying it out loud—that he was interested in me. I had made it just as obvious that I didn’t share his interest, though I’d been flattered by it, and I’d felt little tugs of irrational jealousy when he’d started paying attention to Kimber. I wanted to be happy for Kimber, I really did. It was just that I couldn’t help suspecting Keane’s motives. Ethan had stolen his girlfriend when they were in high school, and Keane made no secret that he held a major grudge. Was it a coincidence that Keane had shown interest in me and then shifted his attention to Ethan’s sister when I didn’t respond?
If he wanted to get a rise out of Ethan, Keane succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. The moment Ethan caught sight of them and saw the hickey on Kimber’s neck, magic flooded our little hollow. I whirled on Ethan, rushing to cover his mouth before he could get a spell out.
I was too slow.
“Back!” Ethan yelled in the instant before my hand landed on his mouth.
Kimber then did something either very brave or very stupid. Maybe a little of both. She stepped between Ethan and Keane.
Ethan’s spell slammed into her, and Kimber screamed as she was lifted off her feet and propelled backward. She bounced off Keane, who tried to grab her but managed to catch an elbow in the face for his efforts, then crashed into the trunk of a large tree. Her back hit first, the impact hard enough to rattle the tree’s branches, and then the back of her head smacked the trunk and she fell limply to the ground.
I tried to keep my hand over Ethan’s mouth, afraid of what else he might do, but he broke my hold easily, despite his bonds, and surged to his feet.
“Kimber!” he cried as he stumbled and ran to her side.
Keane was there before him, his hand at Kimber’s throat, feeling for her pulse. Logically, I’m sure we all knew she wasn’t dead. The Sidhe are very hard to kill, and though the impact had been hard, it hadn’t been that hard. Ethan had meant to hurt Keane, not kill him. That didn’t make it any less terrifying to see Kimber lying there, not moving.
We all relaxed marginally when Keane said, “She’s alive.”
She proved he was right by groaning softly, although her eyes didn’t open.
“Untie my hands!” Ethan ordered. “I can heal her.”
I’d seen Ethan heal wounds before, and I knew that whatever damage he’d done to Kimber, he could most likely fix it. But either Keane didn’t know that, or he was too furious to care.
“Put a fucking gag on him!” he barked at me. “We apparently can’t move fast enough to block his magic after all.”
“Don’t be an ass,” Ethan snapped back. “Untie my hands so I can heal my sister. I’m not about to waste magic on you now.”
Despite Ethan’s considerable talent, using magic did drain him, and he had limits to what he could do. I doubted the spell he’d hit Kimber with had done much to drain his magical reserves, but he’d already had plenty of time to lob another spell at Keane if he wanted, and he hadn’t done it.
Keane, however, didn’t see it that way. “I can heal her myself,” he said, talking to me instead of Ethan. Practicality demanded that Fae fighters learn some healing magic, but my impression was that it was just rudimentary stuff. Maybe it was enough to heal Kimber, or maybe not. “For all we know, this whole thing has been a plot to get us to untie his hands. Now put a gag on him before I break his pretty face. Again.”
“Try it,” Ethan growled. “See how easy it is when I’m ready for you.”
Magic filled the air once again, coming to Ethan’s silent call at incredible speed.
I already knew I wasn’t getting a gag on Ethan, not unless he felt like letting me. He’d torn out of my grip a minute ago with ease, after all. But if he decided his anger with Keane was greater than his concern for Kimber, this could get even uglier than it already was.
I swallowed hard, knowing there was only one way I could keep Ethan from casting anything, but fearing he would never forgive me if I did it. He was ignoring me, all his attention focused on Keane. I wasn’t sure I could knock him out with one blow—my lessons with Keane had been focused on defense, not offense—but I had to try.
My moment of indecision was more than enough to let Ethan unleash whatever spell he planned, but he didn’t do it. Which made me hesitate even more.
Keane shook his head in disgust. “Go ahead. Hit me with your goddamn spell while your sister is lying here unconscious from your last one.”