My assailant was the old woman from the bar that first night I’d arrived in Dublin; the one who’d rapped me with her knuckles and told me to stop staring at the Fae and go die somewhere else and—although now I knew she’d saved my life that night, she might have done it more nicely—I was currently in no mood to thank her.
Tilting her silvery-white head back, she stared up at me, a flabbergasted expression on her wrinkled face. “Who are you?” she exclaimed.
“What do you mean, who am I?” I said sourly. “Why are you chasing me if you don’t know who I am? Do you make a habit of chasing strangers?”
“I was in the museum,” she said. “I saw what you did! Sweet Jesus, Mary Mother of God and all the saints, who are you, lass?”
I was so disgusted with people in general that I shrieked, “You saw what that thing was trying to do to me and didn’t try to help me? If it had raped me, would you have just stood there and watched? Thanks a lot! Appreciate it. Gee, it’s getting to the point where I’m not sure who the bigger monsters are—us or them.” I spun sharply and tried to walk away but she latched onto my arm with a surprisingly strong grip.
“I couldn’t help you and you know it,” she snapped. “You know the rules.”
I shook her hand off my arm. “Actually, I don’t. Everyone else seems to. Just not me.”
“One betrayed is one dead,” said the old woman sharply. “Two betrayed is two dead. We count precious each of our kind, never more so than now. We cannot take risks that might betray more of us, especially not me. Besides, you held your own in a way I’ve never seen—and against a prince, no less! Sweet Jesus, how did you do it? What are you?” Her sharp blue gaze darted rapidly from my left eye to my right and back again. “At first your hair fooled me, then I knew it was you, from the bar. That skin, those eyes, and the way you walk—och, just like Patrona! But you can’t be Patrona’s, or I’d have known. From what O’Connor line do you come? Who is your mother?” she demanded.
I tossed my head impatiently. “Look, old lady, I told you that night in the bar that I’m not an O’Connor. My name is Lane. MacKayla Lane, from Georgia. My mom is Rainey Lane and before she married my dad, she was Rainey Frye. So there you have it. Sorry to disappoint you, but there’s not a single O’Connor anywhere in my family tree.”
“Then you were adopted,” the old woman said flatly.
I gasped. “I was not adopted!”
“Ballocks!” the old woman snapped. “Though I’ve no notion the hows and whys of it, you’re an O’Connor through and through.”
“The nerve!” I exclaimed. “How dare you come up to me and tell me I don’t know who I am? I’m MacKayla Lane and I was born in Christ Hospital just like my sister and my dad was right there in the room with my mom when I was born and I am not adopted and you don’t know the first thing about me or my family!”
“Obviously,” the old woman retorted, “you don’t, either.”
I opened my mouth, thought better of it, shut it, and turned and walked away. I would only be giving credence to the old woman’s delusions by rebutting them. I wasn’t adopted and I knew that for a fact, as certainly as I knew she was one crazy old woman.
“Where are you going?” she demanded. “There are things I must know. Who you are, if we can trust you and how, by all that’s holy, did you get your hands on one of their Hallows? That night in the bar I thought you Pri-ya”—she spat the word like the foulest of epithets—“from the moonstruck way you were staring at it. Now I’ve no idea what you are. You must come with me now. Stop right there, O’Connor.” She used a tone of voice that, not so long ago, would have stopped me dead in my tracks and turned me around, out of respect for my elders if nothing else, but I wasn’t that girl anymore. In fact, I was no longer even certain who that girl had really been, as if Mac BTC—Before The Call that day by the pool—hadn’t quite been real, just an empty, pretty amalgam of fashionable clothes, happy music, and coltish dreams.
“Stop calling me that,” I hissed over my shoulder, “and stay away from me, old woman.” I broke into a sprint but wasn’t fast enough to outrun her next words, and I knew as soon as she said them that they were going to chafe like sharp pebbles in my shoes.
“Then ask her,” rang out the old woman’s challenge. “If you’re so certain you’re not adopted, MacKayla Lane, talk to your mother and ask her.”