“If it’s the Queen’s forces, using the brooch is your only hope,” he said. He was squeezing my shoulders so tight he was probably leaving bruises. “Leave us. Get back to Avalon and be safe.”

I opened my mouth to protest, but he stopped my words with a searing kiss that took my breath away. I groaned with the pleasure of his kiss, even as a part of me knew something was wrong with this picture. Now was so not the time for a make-out session, but my hormones were in overdrive, and I couldn’t seem to make myself push Ethan away. Even when I felt his hand delving into my pocket and grabbing the brooch.

A part of me knew exactly what was happening, was aware of the magic prickling my skin. Ethan had used a milder version of this spell on me once before, but that time I’d been able to shake it off as soon as I realized my hormones were being magically manipulated. This time, I felt like my body wasn’t my own, and I kept kissing him, pressing against him, my hands buried in his hair, as he pulled the brooch out of my pocket.

Something sharp pricked my thigh, right through my pants, and suddenly the flood of arousal left me as Ethan sat back on his heels and blinked at me.

“You bastard!” I said, my eyes welling with tears. But Ethan couldn’t hear me, because the brooch wouldn’t let him. For the next thirty minutes, I would be completely undetectable.

“What the fuck did you do to her?” Keane growled, looking like he was about to forget everything and pound Ethan into the ground.

“The Erlking gave her a magic item that makes her temporarily invisible,” Ethan explained calmly. “No one can see or even hear her while the spell is active, so she’ll be able to get away even if we can’t.”

I felt rather like punching Ethan myself at the moment. Maybe using the brooch was the smart thing to do, but I’d vowed to myself that I wouldn’t abandon my friends. I already didn’t know how I was going to live with abandoning my dad and Finn.

Since no one could see me, I grabbed the brooch from where it had fallen on the ground and stuffed it back into my pocket. I quickly checked my watch so I’d know when the spell would wear off, then climbed to the top of the embankment so I could see who or what was coming.

The news wasn’t good. There were at least three Knights creeping up toward the hollow where my friends sat arguing pointlessly. I suspected there were more Knights I couldn’t see, circling around and cutting off our escape routes. Certainly they would have sent someone to guard the standing stones, too.

Below, I heard Keane accuse Ethan of having somehow captured me for the Erlking with his magic. I suppose it did look kind of bad, and I wished I’d come out and told everyone about the brooch. I’m sure I would have, too, if my earlier bombshell hadn’t gone over so badly.

My friends wouldn’t hear anything I said to them, nor would they feel it if I touched them. I’d already realized that running wouldn’t do them any good, but I couldn’t stand to hear them arguing about me while grim-faced Knights armed with crossbows snuck up on their position.

I grabbed a stick and scrambled back down. The Erlking’s spell made it so that no one noticed the stick moving from the top of the embankment and then hanging in the air in front of them. I tried poking Keane with it, but he didn’t seem to feel it. Then I dropped it on his head.

Keane reached up and brushed the stick out of his hair, then glanced up, probably looking for the tree it had dropped from.

Encouraged that he’d actually felt the stick, I bent down and grabbed a few pebbles from the stream and began lobbing them at him one at a time. He looked so confused that I would have laughed in any other situation.

“It’s Dana, idiot,” Ethan said. “Trying to tell you she’s all right.”

“Um, guys?” Kimber said. “Maybe we should run now?”

Ethan shook his head. “Dana should run instead of hanging around here throwing pebbles. We should surrender to give her more time to get away. I don’t know if they have any spells that can sense her, but if they do, she needs to be well away before they start casting them.”

Keane made a low growling sound. “You surrender if you want. I’m not giving up without a fight. There’s more than one way to buy time.”

“Come out of there and keep your hands where we can see them,” one of the Knights yelled.

Kimber peeked over the lip of the embankment, then quickly dropped back down. “Knights,” she said, her face pale with fright. “They’ve got crossbows.”

“We won’t last more than a minute or two in a fight,” Ethan said. His gaze darted quickly to Kimber and back, fast enough that she didn’t notice. But Keane did, and he got the message. Kimber might not be totally defenseless, but she was still way more vulnerable than either of them because she couldn’t even cast a shield spell. If the boys tried to fight the Knights, Kimber might very well get hurt, or worse.

Keane looked grim, but resolved. “All right,” he said, and he even managed not to look like the concession caused him dire pain. “If we got ourselves killed, Dana would never forgive us.”

Ethan gave a halfhearted bark of laughter, but quickly sobered. “Look, I’m sorry I tried to hit you with that spell. I guess I was being kind of childish.”

Keane sighed, reaching over to take Kimber’s hand. “No, you were just being her big brother.”

“Come out now!” the Knight shouted. “This is your last warning.”