Authors: Sonya Clark
Pete rebuffed all attempts to tend
his wounds. He argued for returning to Bradbury as soon as possible but Kieran
insisted that Eve stay until he’d retrieved something that would allow him to
communicate with her. It threatened to turn into a fight so Eve agreed to wait
while Pete took Sanngrid back so she could get needed medical care.
Eve sat on the floor in front of
the fire, arms wrapped around her drawn up knees. It seemed like days, weeks
even, since they’d left the institute to visit town. She touched the bracelet
Pete had given her as a Yule present. He’d been so relaxed, even flirting with
her. A whole different side of him than what she was used to. But now he
wouldn’t come near her, would barely make eye contact. It was clear Agnar used
her as bait
was that what angered Pete?
Did he not want her to know about his past? Probably not, considering how awful
it was, but it wasn’t her fault she’d found out. That was Agnar’s doing. And
Pete let him walk away scot-free.
This queen business wasn’t her
fault, either. She’d had no idea what would happen. Her only thought had been
protecting him from harm. Now she wondered if he’d even bother to come back for
Surely he would. But on the off
chance he didn’t, surely Chet would search for her. Sanngrid would tell the
others what had happened and where to find her if Pete either could not or
would not return for her.
Eve blew out a frustrated breath and
ran her hands through her hair. Her short, ragged hair. It now hung in a
crooked line on her nape, the shortest end just below her ears. Her scalp still
ached from the brutal hacking. She’d have to get it trimmed into a decent shape
but right now all she wanted to do was break something. Or have a good cry.
Exhaustion settled heavy in her bones, tempting her to close her eyes and rest.
That wasn’t an option in this place. Kieran wanted his daughter safe but that
didn’t mean she could trust him. Eve wouldn’t feel safe until she was back home
in her apartment at the institute compound.
Sick of feeling vulnerable, she
wished Pete or someone would come get her and take her home.
Chet signaled for the group to
stop, withdrawing his katana from the sheath strapped to his back. A lone
figure came toward them through the snow-filled night. In moments he recognized
Sanngrid and ran to meet her. “You hurt?”
, but bandaged up. Pete
went back to get Eve.”
“What the hell happened?” The
others joined them, forming a half circle. Rami offered her a water bottle.
After a long drink Sanngrid said,
“It was a trap to get Pete to Sideways. Eve shot the Bone Queen.”
Judith said, “Is the queen dead?”
Sanngrid’s mouth twitched in a
quick humorless grin. “The old one is. Apparently now there’s a new one.”
“Oh my god.” Judith covered her
face. “We have to get her out of Sideways before word gets out. She won’t be
safe. A human monarch in Sideways, the Valley Below at that.” She shook her
“Pete went back for her,” Sanngrid
said. “He’s messed up right now but he won’t abandon her.”
Chet didn’t like the sound of that.
“What do you mean, messed up?”
Sanngrid dropped her gaze to the
ground. She didn’t want to be disloyal, he could tell. He could even
understand. More than Pete was at stake, though. He was about to speak when she
“The person who took Eve is his
brother. And Pete’s name, it’s not Pete. I don’t know the whole story but what
I do know is bad. Family business, bad blood.” She looked at Chet. “It’s bad,
Judith said, “Will he be able to
bring her out on his own?”
Sanngrid nodded. “There’s a warrior
backing Eve because the dead queen has been holding his child hostage and he
wants his kid safe. I think he can be trusted at least until he gets what he
wants. Otherwise I wouldn’t have let Pete bring me first.”
“Everyone get back to the
institute. Chet, I’d like you to stay and wait for them. As soon as he’s back
in the building, I want Pete in my office.” Judith turned and headed back for
George followed first, then the
others. Sanngrid lingered with Chet. “She knows something.”
Chet agreed. “She never would have
let Pete stay if he hadn’t told her the truth.”
“The brother’s bad news. He’s a
sorcerer and I think he may be the one behind what went down in Frankfurt.”
Shit. Chet hoped that wasn’t true,
for Pete’s sake. “Go on. Get that arm looked at.”
She gave him a weak grin. “Stay
Eve raised her head from her knees
at the sound of footsteps on the stone floor. She looked back to see Pete
approaching. He’d fixed his shirt and armor, his black sword in one hand. His
face was unreadable underneath the dried blood.
She was very much ready to be home
but something stopped her. Perhaps it was the coldness in his eyes that
reminded her so much of his brother. “Why are you mad at me?”
He looked away. “I’m not mad at
you. I’m just mad.” He sheathed the sword.
“It seems like you’re mad at me. I
didn’t know what would happen, Pete. She was about to gut you with that knife.”
“It doesn’t matter now.”
“What was I supposed to do, let her
“I can’t do this right now. Let’s
“We have to talk about this. All of
it.” Meaning what she’d seen in the manacles as much as what happened when she
killed the Bone Queen. He had to know she knew quite a bit of the truth now,
enough to be shaken by it. Maybe she didn’t have a right to ask him to talk to
her about it but no one else knew. Not even his closest friends, Sanngrid and
Chet. Had he ever talked to anyone about what happened to him? Or had he held
it inside, his own private nightmare?
“The longer we stay here, the more
at risk you are. Let’s get back to Bradbury and let your steward take care of
the fallout.” He extended a hand.
With reluctance Eve took it. She
was afraid if she let him he would keep putting off having any meaningful
conversation. They did need to leave though, so she allowed him to lead her out
of the cave.
Kieran waited at the lake shore.
The Long Night Moon hung heavy and low in the night sky, so large its silver
light was almost as bright as day. The steward bowed as they approached.
“Highness, I take my leave of you.”
“Okay.” Not sure what to say, Eve
just stood there. She realized she was still holding Pete’s hand. His fingers
were cold but tightly twined with hers. She squeezed his hand, heartened when
he returned the small gesture.
“There is one thing.” Kieran held
up a polished ring of bone with a ruby stone. “Whether you wear this or not is
up to you, but as the Bone Queen you should have it. It is a symbol of your
rule and it is also enchanted. Through it, I’ll be able to contact you when
Eve shoved it in her pocket. “Thank
you. Good luck, Kieran.”
Once again he seemed surprised at
her use of his name. He nodded, then moved off to the temporary camp on the
other side of the lake.
She turned to Pete. “Please take me
home.” Hopefully it would be a long time before she ever had to come back to
Pete stared out the window behind
Judith’s desk at the falling snow. The first light of dawn shone a murky gray
in the winter gloom. He’d told Judith and Chet everything and they’d shown him
the black diamond found in the kitchen. So Agnar had been spying, but that
didn’t mean it was because of Pete’s presence.
“If he was John Delafield’s secret
buyer then he wants the Key of Darkness. My being here probably doesn’t mean
that much to him.”
Judith said, “You really believe
that? He went to a lot of trouble to get your attention. Tipped his hand, even.
Before we had no idea who we were dealing with. Now we do.”
That much was true. Agnar and their
mother always shared the same jealousy of Pete’s natural ability as well as the
same possessiveness of him. If they couldn’t make him do their bidding, they
would not allow him to be his own man. “I think it’s clear he wants me dead. He
pretty much turned us over to…he turned us over.” He rubbed his face. The Bone
Queen’s death hadn’t sunk in yet. Much less the fallout.
“Do you think this man Kieran can
“I don’t really care. I just wanted
to get Eve out of there.”
Chet said, “I’ll have Rami consult
with the gargoyles. We’ll need to be alerted if there’s any Sidhe presence
“Not just Sidhe,” Pete said. “They
can send other creatures after her as well.”
“I’ll talk to Rami about new
security spells.” Judith rose. “Pete, if you think of anything else we need to
know, please tell Chet.”
“Yes, ma’am.” She placed a hand on
his shoulder briefly as she left the room.
As soon as the door closed Chet
spoke. “What happened between you and Eve? You wouldn’t look at each other when
you brought her back.”
“Just pour me a drink and get off
“Pour your own damn drink! What the
“What happened is I just painted a
target on that woman. Because of me, every mercenary in the Valley Below will
be coming to kill her and take that crown.”
“Funny, I thought it was this
brother of yours that kidnapped her and took her to Sideways. And turned you
over to the Bone Queen. How is that your fault?”
“He took her because of me. You may
not be a hundred percent sure Devin was a spy but I am. He knew institute
gossip. He called her my woman. He targeted Eve because he knew that was the
one thing that would make me cross into Sideways again.”
“That may be so, but come on. Don’t
be stupid. The only thing Eve’s going to blame you for is if you’re not there
for her when she needs you. Don’t shut her out now.”
“He put those manacles on her. I
know she saw things.” Pete covered his face with his hands and leaned over.
Nausea roiled in his gut as images flickered in his mind, things he’d gladly
give years of his life to forget. But there would be no forgetting. No amount
of booze or anything else could mask the memories. He’d lived a nightmare he
never wanted to think of or speak of again, but now Eve had seen it. How much,
he didn’t know, but it didn’t matter. She’d seen enough, that much he was sure
of. How could he explain to Chet the humiliation he felt, the violation at
those nightmare memories being dredged up and passed around like party gossip?
He wanted to kill Agnar for that. He wanted to do to his brother what he’d
accidently done to their mother. That sickened him. That made him afraid of
Most of all, though, he didn’t know
if he could look at Eve again. He didn’t know what he would do if he saw pity
in her eyes.
Chet said, “Look, I don’t know what
to tell you. I know you care about Eve and I think you want more than
friendship with her. If that’s true then you can’t let this fester. You have to
talk to her. I know you’re going through a lot right now but you gotta
remember, she killed someone.
Pete hadn’t thought of it in quite
those terms. He’d made her both a killer and a target. He owed her thanks, and
a chance to scream at him if that’s what she needed.
“I’ll go talk to her. If she’ll see
“Go clean up first.” Chet gestured
at the red smears on Pete’s face and clothes. “I think she’s seen enough blood
for one day.”
Pete nodded. “So have I.”
After letting Maura tend his wounds
in the infirmary, Pete made his way home through the snow. He knew from
experience how long the herbal remedies would take, so he boosted their power
by drawing on the cold around him. He caught snowflakes in his hands and pulled
Winter into his body with just a thought. Its restorative powers went to work
immediately, soothing his aches and pains and healing the cuts from the Bone
Queen’s poison blade.
When he was her prisoner, he’d
fantasized about killing the Bone Queen himself. Dreams of his hands squeezing
her neck got him through many a horrible night. He’d felt abandoned, lost to
the world and even himself. Sometimes he didn’t know how he’d made it out of
there sane, or even if he really had. He knew he was a different person now,
but sometimes he felt glimmers of the young man he used to be trying to push to
He stood in a swirl of snow and
realized it was of his making. The snowfall had ceased. This gentle spiral of
ice and fluff that enveloped him was coming up from the ground, called by magic
and his body’s need for healing.
Agnar had never been able to do
anything like this. He needed the trappings, the spells and rituals and
incantations. His mastery of those trappings made him powerful, to be sure.
Pete recalled the hours and hours they both spent at lessons as boys. His
brother worked diligently but for Pete it was as easy as breathing. He’d never
fully understood how rare that was until coming to Bradbury, and it had helped
seal his determination to suppress his natural magic.
Pete didn’t want to suppress his
magic anymore. It might be dangerous, but so was the gun he now wore like a
part of himself. If he could control the one, surely he could control the
other. If it could do something as amazing as create this swirling, healing
curtain of snow, surely it couldn’t be all bad.
After a while he moved on to his
apartment and a hot shower. As he dressed in clean clothes he considered what
to say to Eve. Sorry didn’t seem to be near enough. He would stay away from her
if that’s what she wanted, but he could finally admit at least to himself that
that wasn’t what he wanted. Right or wrong, fair or not, he wanted her in his
life. Not just as a colleague or a friend, but as…whatever she was willing to