“All right, I will,” Ethan said, and suddenly the strip of T-shirt that bound his hands together behind his back disappeared.
I ordered myself to hit him before he did something disastrous, but I just couldn’t do it. This was Ethan, and for better or for worse, I had to admit to myself that I was probably in love with him. I might have been able to hit him in self-defense, but not like this, not in cold blood.
The magic in the air grew thicker, no doubt the result of Keane raising his shield spells, but Ethan didn’t attack him. In fact, he seemed almost to forget that Keane was there, instead leaning over and putting his hands on Kimber’s shoulders.
“Kimber?” he asked. “Can you hear me?”
She groaned and her eyes fluttered open. “Unfortunately,” she said, her face twisted with pain. “I think you broke my ribs.”
Ethan winced, and his cheeks reddened with shame. “I’m so sorry. I’ll fix it, but it’s going to hurt.”
Tears of pain leaked from Kimber’s eyes, but she still managed a first-class glare at her brother. “You are so off my Christmas list this year.” She reached a hand out toward Keane, who still looked like he wanted to ignore everything and beat the crap out of Ethan.
“For God’s sake, hold her hand!” Ethan snapped. “I’m not a real healer, and I can’t do anything for the pain.”
Keane grumbled something under his breath, but he moved closer to Kimber and wrapped his fingers around hers. Their eyes met and locked, and for the first time, it looked to me like he genuinely cared about her, that he wasn’t showing off for Ethan’s benefit. I wanted to hold her other hand, but I was surely still in her doghouse so I didn’t think she’d appreciate it.
Ethan’s magic swelled, and he whispered something so softly I couldn’t hear it. Kimber’s back arched, and she gasped in pain, her knuckles going white as she clasped Keane’s hand with desperate strength. And then it was over.
We all breathed a sigh of relief. Kimber was sweaty and shaking, but the expression on her face no longer screamed of pain. Keane kept hold of her hand, his thumb stroking back and forth idly.
“So you could have untied yourself anytime,” he said to Ethan, who shrugged. We had all badly underestimated his power, and we were lucky he hadn’t made us pay for it.
“Yeah. If you hadn’t damaged the mark, it would have been bad.”
“And you’re not under the Erlking’s influence right now, but you didn’t tell us that we weren’t taking enough precautions.”
Ethan reached up to rub his face, then remembered the burn and thought better of it. “I didn’t want to be gagged, which I figured was the next logical step.” His shoulders drooped. “But if the mark heals any more than it already has, I guess I’ll have to live with it.”
“More than it already has?” Keane asked, sounding horrified.
Ethan nodded grimly. “It doesn’t hurt as much as it should, and I think that means it’s healing.”
We all looked closely at the burn on his face. It definitely looked less angry than it had when it was fresh. But I had no idea how fast a burn would heal naturally on one of the Sidhe, except that it was faster than it would heal on a human or a half-blood like me. Maybe this was normal. Or maybe there was magic that would keep the mark from being permanently damaged.
My heart sank at the thought, then sank even lower when I considered all the ramifications of the mark healing. If Ethan’s mark healed, then mine probably would, too. And even if we could make it safely to Avalon, the Erlking would still be able to track me there. Titania had officially set him on me, which meant that the geis that prevented the Erlking from hunting indiscriminately in Avalon wouldn’t be in effect. Which meant my only hope of escaping him was to leave Avalon for the mortal world and never return.
I was still trying to absorb that unpalatable reality when Keane’s head suddenly popped up, his eyes going wide. I was going to ask him what was wrong, but then I heard it, too. The sound of someone moving through the underbrush, coming in our direction.
I remembered Kimber’s startled scream when Ethan’s spell had hit her, and realized we had been anything but quiet. Maybe whoever was approaching was some stray Fae, someone who wouldn’t be inclined to detain us and report us to the authorities. Or even someone we could overpower, between Keane’s fighting abilities and Ethan’s magic.
But my luck had been lousy for so long I wasn’t exactly hopeful that it was going to change now.
“Use the brooch,” Ethan whispered to me urgently as once again magic filled the air.
Kimber and Keane both gave me quizzical looks, but now wasn’t the time to explain. I shook my head.
“Don’t argue!” Ethan said. “I’ll sit on you and stick you with it myself if I have to.”
“What are you talking about?” Keane asked.
I wanted to scream at them to run instead of sitting here and arguing, but the reality was that we would never make it. Even if Ethan cast his invisibility spell on us as he had the night we’d fled the palace, he couldn’t keep it up for very long. I doubted he’d have the time or the power to work the standing stones—assuming we were willing to risk trying them—and if we just ran off into the woods, we’d leave a trail any idiot could follow, with no storm to wipe it out and no Green Lady to draw the pursuit off.
Ethan put his hands on my shoulders and leaned into me, his eyes boring into me, deadly serious.