He wasn’t moving, and he appeared to be unconscious—or even dead—but I wasn’t taking any chances. Al obediently tottered behind me, still unsteady on her feet.

We had to step over Gary to get to the front door. I pulled Al’s arm over my shoulders, trying to steady her as her strength waned and her knees shook.

The door burst open, and I thought sure the jig was up, that Tom had figured out we were still in the house and had come back to kill us. Instead, a pair of policemen charged through, pointing guns. Al’s knees chose that moment to give up entirely, taking us both down to the floor, which I figured was just as well when there were police pointing guns at us.

Chapter Seven

I’d been so focused on getting myself and Al out of the attic that I’d never put much thought into what my dad might be doing in my absence. It turned out that as soon as Finn and Al’s bodyguard had realized the two of us had flown the coop, her bodyguard had made an educated guess what she might be up to. He didn’t know about Al’s compulsion spell, so he’d apparently almost started a Faerie war right then and there, thinking I’d willingly risked Al’s life for what he figured were frivolous reasons. Finn and my dad had managed to calm him—and the rest of Mab’s representatives in Avalon—down and prepared to send a human search party into London to retrieve us.

That’s when he’d received the ransom call from Gary.

Dad had played along, then contacted the London police the moment he got off the phone. Gary had, of course, threatened to kill us if Dad called the police—though he’d assumed at the time that my dad had no idea who he was or where he lived—but my dad came to the same conclusion that I had about the inevitable outcome of paying our ransom. The police had surrounded the house, but knew that the moment they burst in, they’d have a potentially ugly hostage situation on their hands. They were still working on their strategy when I broke the attic window and eventually sent Tom running from the house in pursuit.

It was almost funny to see the looks on all those macho policemen’s faces when they realized a pair of teenage girls—one of them so looped out on GHB she could hardly stay conscious despite her attempt to heal herself—had managed to trick their most dangerous attacker into leaving the house and had knocked their other attacker unconscious. I shuddered to think what would have happened if I’d waited a little longer to put our plan into effect. Maybe the police would have been able to take Gary and Tom down without getting Al or me hurt, but maybe not.

Hostage situations are notoriously tricky, especially when one of the hostage-takers is under the influence of drugs.

Al was too out of it to talk to the police, so I gave them the best accounting I could of what had happened. The idea that a real live Faerie Princess was in their midst clearly both awed and unnerved them, and the fact that magic had been involved in our escape evoked obvious disbelief, no matter how silly that disbelief seemed in the face of a Fae girl in the mortal world.

We were plucked out of the police station after about an hour by a couple of representatives of the Avalon embassy in London. The police wanted to keep us longer—at least until Al, who had categorically refused human medical treatment, was clear-headed enough to give her own statement–but the embassy pulled some diplomatic strings to get us out of there. It was nearing midnight when Al and I climbed into the back of a diplomat’s black Mercedes and started driving back toward Avalon with a police escort.

I didn’t think this incident was over yet. According to our diplomatic escort, Mab had arrived in Avalon in the early evening, and she was not in a good mood.

She could make my life very, very difficult if she wanted to.

Al was quiet beside me, though her eyes were open, and she seemed

progressively more alert. I turned to her and found she wouldn’t meet my eyes.

This didn’t give me a warm fuzzy feeling.

“Are you going to tell your mother you used compulsion on me?” I asked. I had a feeling that if Mab thought I’d taken her little girl out into the mortal world of my own free will, she was going to want me drawn and quartered.

Al hunched her shoulders and slid down a little lower in her seat. “She doesn’t know about the compulsion spell,” she said softly. “No one does. It doesn’t work as well on people if they know you can do it.”

Anger surged in me for about the ten thousandth time since I’d met Al. “I’m sorry if people knowing about your spell will cramp your style,” I said acidly, “but you almost got us both killed, and if you don’t fess up, your mom will blame me.”

I didn’t need to know Mab personally to know that if I told her Al used a compulsion spell and Al denied it, she’d believe Al. Faerie Queens are like that.

Hell, moms in general are like that.

I can’t say I had high expectations of Al doing the right thing. She’d made it pretty clear that her own wants and desires were more important to her than anyone else’s. Certainly she’d never shown any sensitivity to my situation, nor had she shown any sign that she respected my opinion. But she surprised me.

“All right,” she said softly. “I’ll tell the truth. It’s the least I can do after everything I’ve put you through. And I really am sorry. I’m obviously the world’s worst judge of character. Someday, somehow, I’m going to make it up to you.”

Ugh. I didn’t want her to make it up to me. I wanted her out of my life, for good. Maybe she’d grown up a little, but I didn’t think she’d fundamentally changed. She was selfish, and spoiled, and manipulative. Toxic, as Ethan had described her. I still felt a hint of pity, maybe even sympathy, for her—I knew being the Unseelie Queen’s daughter must be terribly difficult, and she wouldn’t have fallen for Gary if she didn’t have some serious self-esteem issues—but that wasn’t something I could build a friendship upon.

I opened my mouth to tell her in no uncertain terms that after tonight, our paths would never cross again. But before the first word escaped my throat, Al’s eyes closed and she sagged in her seat, resting her head against the side window.

“Al?” I whispered, but she didn’t respond, her breathing slow and heavy. The damned GHB was still messing with her, and would be until she was seen by a qualified Fae healer.

Trying to ignore my uneasy suspicion that severing ties with Althea

Mabsdotter wasn’t going to be as easy as I hoped, I let her sleep.

About the author

Jenna Black is your typical writer. Which means she’s an “experience junkie.”

She got her BA in physical anthropology and French from Duke University.

Once upon a time, she dreamed she would be the next Jane Goodall,

camping in the bush making fabulous discoveries about primate behavior. Then, during her senior year at Duke, she did some actual research in the field and made this shocking discovery: primates spend something like 80% of their time doing such exciting things as sleeping and eating.

Concluding that this discovery was her life’s work in the field of primatology, she then moved on to such varied pastimes as grooming dogs and writing technical documentation. She is now a full-time writer and lives in North Carolina.


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