“I wouldn’t have changed a thing.”
I blinked as I lifted my head. “What are you talking about?”
“The offer I had Cayman make to the witches.” He dragged his thumb under my lower lip. “Even if I’d known that they’d ask for Bambi, I still would’ve agreed if it meant saving you. I can only guess Zayne would feel the same about the way Abbot died.”
“I just want you to know that. Okay?” He leaned over, kissing my forehead. “I miss that snake. I’m always going to miss her, but if I had to do it all over again, I would. No questions asked. I’d do it all over again for you.”
I REALLY WASN’T sure how Zayne and Stacey ended up in the backseat of the Mustang the following morning. Stacey had showed up first thing, moments after I’d stepped out of the shower, banging on the front door and demanding to be allowed in.
A huge part of me—okay, all of me—wished I’d been in the command room to see Geoff’s face when that went down. In all our time as friends, Stacey had never been allowed at the compound before.
From what I gathered, the Wardens had refused to allow her entrance until Zayne appeared. Turned out she’d learned of my now-minor injury through Zayne at some point the night before, because neither Roth nor I had been answering texts.
The fact that she and Zayne were texting in the first place was a huge surprise to me. I didn’t think they’d ever exchanged numbers before. Not that Stacey would’ve been against having Zayne’s number, but I wasn’t sure when the whole becoming text-buddies thing had happened.
Probably when I was in Hell.
Was that only yesterday? The day before? I couldn’t keep track of the time anymore.
Right now, she was supposed to be in class, not that I could really take her to task on that since I hadn’t stepped foot inside the school in what felt like forever.
Since Zayne had been in the room when Roth had suggested paying the seer a visit, he’d brought it up while Stacey was visiting me in my old room. She demanded to go with us, and after about a half an hour of arguing, I’d given up on trying to reason with her. I didn’t want her anywhere near any of this, not even the seer, but as she had pointed out more than once, she was already knee-deep in it.
It was also good to see her animated and active instead of a washed-out ghost version of the friend I loved.
I was surprised that Zayne had joined us. He was quiet, his expression stoic. I didn’t know how he was processing the grief of losing his father mere hours ago, but he was holding it together, and that strength was admirable.
When I’d seen Elijah die, I’d felt grief but it had been a different kind. With his death, I lost the potential of what could’ve been. Not that I ever fooled myself into thinking one day he would wake up and accept me as his daughter, but I’d mourned the loss...the loss of what never was. When Abbot died, I’d felt the loss of the only father figure I’d known, yet even though my grief was sharp, it was nothing compared to what Zayne must be feeling.
And my grief over Sam still didn’t reach the heights of what Stacey had experienced. It seemed, that through all of this, I was just getting a taste of the consequences of what was happening, not the whole swallow.
I had a feeling that would change, though, very soon.
The ride to the seer’s house was awkward, because it started with a trip to the local grocery store.
The Perdue chicken was tucked between Zayne and Stacey. The former was shooting daggers at the back of Roth’s head anytime I glanced back at him. Roth was on his third round of humming “Paradise City,” appearing oblivious to the death glare directed at him. I was trying to pretend like everything was dandy and totally not about seven levels of awkward, and Stacey looked like she needed a bucket of popcorn.
When we finally pulled up in front of the old home with its wooden fence and stone walls near the Manassas Battlefield, I was ready to dive-bomb out of the car.
“I think it’s best that you two stay in the car.” Roth turned off the ignition, and then twisted back, eyeing our tagalongs. “Tony is peculiar. We don’t need to piss him off.”
Zayne glanced at the chicken. “You have to bring him a chicken?”
“Eh...” Roth didn’t answer.
“He’s really a kid?” Stacey asked, glancing at the house. A curtain swayed across a window near the door. “Like a kid, kid?”
“Yeah, he’s probably only nine or ten,” I explained, reaching for the door.
“Geez,” murmured Stacey, slowly shaking her head.
“You two going to be okay here?” I hesitated.
Roth snorted. “I’m sure they’ll be just fine.”
I shot him a look, and he turned an innocent stare on me while he reached behind him. “Someone hand me the chicken?”
It was Stacey who handed it over. “This is so weird.”
“You have no idea,” I muttered.
Roth waited for me on the other side of the Mustang, lightly placing his hand on my lower back. “You feeling okay?” he asked as we stepped through the gate and passed the neatly trimmed bushes.
“Just a little sore,” I admitted, because saying I was 100 percent fine wouldn’t be believable.
Dipping his head, he brushed his lips over my forehead before we climbed the stairs. I glanced back at the car and found that Zayne had not stayed inside as instructed. He was standing beside the car, his back to the house. He was right there, but looking at him felt like I was seeing a recorded image of someone. He was there but not.
The door opened before we knocked, drawing my attention. The faint blue aura faded, revealing Tony’s mother. She was wearing a white cardigan this time, but the pearls I remembered were still clasped around her neck.
“I’m still not happy to see you,” she said.
Roth raised a shoulder. “And I’d say I’m sorry, but I still wouldn’t mean it.”
Good Lord, not this again.
“Let them in,” came the voice from behind the woman.
She stepped aside and there he was. First I saw the white glow around him, brighter than what clung to Zayne. A pure soul, totally rare. The urge I usually felt at seeing a pure soul was minimal, almost forgettable. The boy was all blond curls and had the face of a cherub. He was adorable—with the exception of the white pupils in the middle of his cobalt eyes.
Because those eyes were still freaky.
Tony glanced at the grocery bag Roth held. “Another chicken? Are you serious?”
“Hey. I hear Perdue is the best,” Roth replied.
“And I hear Tyson is not that bad, either.” Sighing, the pint-size seer gestured at his mom. “Take it.”
The woman, who was probably well versed in the bizarreness, took the bag. “It’s Taco Tuesday. This will have to wait.”
“You bet it will.” The seer motioned us to follow him. The house smelled of pine and apples, making me yearn for Christmas. “You know, you could’ve allowed your friends to come in. Instead they’re out there, being all broody and probably creeping out the neighbors.”
“They’re probably the least creepy thing your neighbors have seen,” Roth pointed out.
“Depends on what you think is creepy, eh?”