“I don’t know how to use a sword. I only know how to hunt.”
“Same thing, isn’t it?”
“For me it’s different.”
Lucien fell silent, considering. “I suppose you humans are such hateful cowards that you would have wet yourself, curled up, and waited to die if you’d known beyond a doubt what Andras truly was.” Insufferable. Lucien sighed as he looked me over. “Do you ever stop being so serious and dull?”
“Do you ever stop being such a prick?” I snapped back.
Dead—really, truly, I should have been dead for that.
But Lucien grinned at me. “Much better.”
Alis, it seemed, had not been wrong.
Whatever tentative truce we built that afternoon vanished at the dinner table.
Tamlin was lounging in his usual seat, a long claw out and circling his goblet. It paused on the lip as soon as I entered, Lucien on my heels. His green eyes pinned me to the spot.
Right. I’d brushed him off that morning, claiming I wanted to be alone.
Tamlin slowly looked at Lucien, whose face had turned grave. “We went on a hunt,” Lucien said.
“I heard,” Tamlin said roughly, glancing between us as we took our seats. “And did you have fun?” Slowly, his claw sank back into his flesh.
Lucien didn’t answer, leaving it to me. Coward. I cleared my throat. “Sort of,” I said.
“Did you catch anything?” Every word was clipped out.
“No.” Lucien gave me a pointed cough, as if urging me to say more.
But I had nothing to say. Tamlin stared at me for a long moment, then dug into his food, not all that interested in talking to me, either.
Then Lucien quietly said, “Tam.”
Tamlin looked up, more animal than fae in those green eyes. A demand for whatever it was Lucien had to say.
Lucien’s throat bobbed. “The Bogge was in the forest today.”
The fork in Tamlin’s hand folded in on itself. He said with lethal calm, “You ran into it?”
Lucien nodded. “It moved past but came close. It must have snuck through the border.”
Metal groaned as Tamlin’s claws punched out, obliterating the fork. He rose to his feet with a powerful, brutal movement. I tried not to tremble at the contained fury, at how his canines seemed to lengthen as he said, “Where in the forest?”
Lucien told him. Tamlin threw a glance in my direction before stalking out of the room and shutting the door behind him with unnerving gentleness.
Lucien loosed a breath, pushing away his half-eaten food and rubbing at his temples.
“Where is he going?” I asked, staring toward the door.
“To hunt the Bogge.”
“You said it couldn’t be killed—that you can’t face it.”
My breath caught a bit. The gruff High Fae halfheartedly flattering me was capable of killing a thing like the Bogge. And yet he’d served me himself that first night, offered me life rather than death. I’d known he was lethal, that he was a warrior of sorts, but …
“So he went to hunt the Bogge where we were earlier today?”
Lucien shrugged. “If he’s going to pick up a trail, it would be there.”
I had no idea how anyone could face that immortal horror, but … it wasn’t my problem.
And just because Lucien wasn’t going to eat anymore didn’t mean I wouldn’t. Lucien, lost in thought, didn’t even notice the feast I downed.
I returned to my room, and—awake and with nothing else to do—began monitoring the garden beyond for any signs of Tamlin’s return. He didn’t come back.
I sharpened the knife I’d hidden away on a bit of stone I’d taken from the garden. An hour passed—and still Tamlin didn’t return.
The moon showed her face, casting the garden below in silver and shadow.
Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous to watch for his return, to see if he could indeed survive against the Bogge. I turned from the window, about to drag myself into bed.
But something moved out in the garden.
I lunged for the curtains beside the window, not wanting to be caught waiting for him, and peered out.
Not Tamlin—but someone lurked by the hedges, facing the house. Looking toward me.
Male, hunched, and—
The breath went out of me as the faerie hobbled closer—just two steps into the light leaking from the house.
Not a faerie, but a man.
I didn’t give myself a chance to panic, to doubt, to do anything but wish I had stolen some food from my breakfast table as I layered on tunic after tunic and bundled myself in a cloak, stuffing the knife I’d stolen into my boot. The extra clothes in the satchel would just be a burden to carry.
My father. My father had come to take me—to save me. Whatever benefits Tamlin had given him upon my departure couldn’t be too tempting, then. Maybe he had a ship prepared to take us far, far away—maybe he had somehow sold the cottage and gotten enough money to set us up in a new place, a new continent.
My father—my crippled, broken father had come.
A quick survey of the ground beneath my window revealed no one outside—and the silent house told me no one had spotted my father yet. He was still waiting by the hedge, now beckoning to me. At least Tamlin had not returned.
With a final glance at my room, listening for anyone approaching from the hall, I grasped the nearby trellis of wisteria and eased down the building.
I winced at the crunch of gravel beneath my boots, but my father was already moving toward the outer gates, limping along with his cane. How had he even gotten here? There had to be horses nearby, then. He was hardly wearing enough clothing for the winter that would await us once we crossed the wall. But I’d layered on so much that I could spare him some items if need be.
Keeping my movements light and silent, carefully avoiding the light of the moon, I hurried after my father. He moved with surprising swiftness toward the darkened hedges and the gate beyond.
Only a few hall candles were burning inside the house. I didn’t dare breathe too loudly—didn’t dare call for my father as he limped toward the gate. If we left now, if he indeed had horses, we could be halfway home by the time they realized I was gone. Then we’d flee—flee Tamlin, flee the blight that could soon invade our lands.
My father reached the gates. They were already open, the dark forest beyond beckoning. He must have hidden the horses deeper in. He turned toward me, that familiar face drawn and tight, those brown eyes clear for once, and beckoned. Hurry, hurry, every movement of his hand seemed to shout.