There was another silence, then a sharp, pained feminine gasp, and a much longer silence.
“She stays, Fio,” Barrons murmured after some time. “And you will keep your peace about it, won’t you?”
I was beginning to think I’d missed her reply when Barrons spoke again, harshly. “I said ‘won’t you,’ Fio?”
“Of course, Jericho,” Fiona replied softly. “Whatever you wish.” Her voice was dreamy, as carefree as a child’s.
Taken aback by her sudden, drastic change of heart, I closed the door with careful stealth.
Then I turned and beat a hasty path for the dubious security of my borrowed bedroom.
Later that evening, hours after Barrons had come to yell at me through my closed door for going out today and risking the safety of his personal OOP-detector, then gone—yes, Fiona had ratted me out—I stood at my bedroom window and stared out into the night. There was no order to my thoughts. They jumbled and tumbled like autumn leaves in a whirlwind.
Where was Alina’s journal? There was no way she hadn’t been keeping one. If she’d thought she was falling in love, she would have written page after page about her new boyfriend every night, especially if she’d not been talking to me or anyone else about him. Though I’d been considering asking Barrons to help me search for it, after the conversation I’d just overheard, that was a big, fat no. Nor was I about to confide in him about my little visit from the death-by-sex Fae.
Was V’lane really a Seelie prince? The proverbial “guy in the white hat”? It sure didn’t seem like it. But then, would any Fae ever seem good to a sidhe-seer? Not that I was admitting that I was one or anything. I was still holding out hope that something else was going on. Like maybe I was sleeping and stuck in a long, awful nightmare that would end if only I could wake up. Or maybe I’d been hit by a car and was lying in a hospital bed back in Ashford, having coma-induced hallucinations.
Anything would be preferable to calling myself a sidhe-seer. It felt like an admission of defeat, a willful embracing of the strange dark fever I seemed to have caught the moment I’d set foot in Ireland. The craziness had begun that very night, with the Fae at the bar and the batty old woman.
In retrospect, I could see the old woman hadn’t been crazy, she’d been a sidhe-seer, and she’d actually saved my life that night. Who could say how things might have turned out if she hadn’t stopped me from betraying myself? Honor your bloodline, she’d said.
What bloodline? A bloodline of sidhe-seers? Every question I thought of only bred a host of other questions. Did that mean my mom was supposed to be one, too? That thought was simply ludicrous. I couldn’t see Rainey Lane, spatula in one hand, dish towel in the other, pretending not to see the Fae any more than I could see Mallucé forgiving me for stealing his stone and inviting me along on a shopping trip for the latest in shabby-chic Goth fashions. Nor could I see my tax-attorney father faking Fae-blindness.
My thought bounced back to V’lane. What if the Fae was lying and was actually an Unseelie, working to free more of his brethren to prey upon my world? And if it was telling the truth, why did the Seelie Queen want the book containing “the deadliest of all magic”? What did Aoibheal plan to do with it, and how had this highly sought-after book gotten lost in the first place?
Who could I trust? Where could I turn?
Had Alina known any of what I was learning? Had she been to McCabe’s and Mallucé’s? What had happened to her when she’d first arrived in Dublin all those months ago? Whatever it was—when it had begun—she’d found it exciting. Had she met a man who’d dragged her into this dark underworld, as I had? Had she met a Fae who seduced her into it? He’s been lying to me all along, she’d said. He’s one of them. By “them” had she meant “Fae”? “Oh God,” I whispered, stunned by the thought. Had Alina thought she was in love with a Fae? Had it wooed her, used her? Had she been an OOP-detector, too? And a Null, like me?
Was I unwittingly following the same steps she’d taken, down the same path to the same eventual destination—death?
I mentally tallied everyone that was looking for the Sinsar Dubh: There was Barrons, McCabe, Mallucé, V’lane, and according to V’lane, the Seelie Queen, and from the presence of the Unseelie watchdogs at McCabe’s and Mallucé’s, at least one big, bad Unseelie that might or might not be called the Lord Master. Why? What were all these, er . . . people, for lack of a better word, after? Did they all want it for the same reason? And if so, what was that reason?