Shay woke up in the backseat of a car.
As soon as her eyes flashed open and there was no recognition in her mind of any of the features she was taking in, she started and jumped up, promptly whacking her head on the ceiling.
The world swayed for a moment as she pressed a hand to her forehead.
“You’re awake,” Isobel said softly from the seat in front of her. Ivory sat beside her, staring straight ahead, and Aubree was on her other side, laying with her head against the window. “You’ve been out for twenty minutes since you fainted on our hike.”
“I . . . what?” Shay peered at her through narrowed, confused eyes.
“You hit your head on a rock,” Isobel went on. “Got your nose and your chin pretty banged up. You even got some blood on mine and Ivy’s shirt when we were carrying you.”
Shay had no idea what the hell Isobel was talking up. Her broken nose and blossoming bruise on her chin were from Aubree, and the blood on the twins’ shirts were from Theo not from Shay.
At the thought of Theo, something caught in Shay’s throat.
“This couple was kind enough to offer us a ride to the nearest town so we could get some proper food in you,” Isobel told her.
Then Shay noticed the middle-aged man and woman at the front of the car, and everything Isobel was saying clicked into place. The woman, who sat in the passenger seat, turned around to smile at Shay from under her curly blonde hair.
“Don’t you worry, sugar,” she said, and her Southern accent was strong and sweet, rolling off her tongue like honey. “We’re gonna get some nice, warm pancakes in you, and get you all cleaned up.”
Shay wanted so badly to ask Isobel about Rowan and Matt.
She couldn’t believe they were alive.
She’d spent so many nights lying awake, their faces in her mind. Rowan’s pale, kind blue eyes sparkling as she smiled and curtsied with a, “Hello, Miss Shay.” So many times she’d imagined Matt’s arms around her— oh, Matt —holding her in an embrace soft as the bat of a kitten’s paw. His beautiful green eyes looking down on her with adoration as if she were the most wonderful thing in the world, his thumb stroking the scars on her cheeks.
And so many times she’d relived their deaths in her mind.
Only now . . . Now she knew they’d never died. Her relief of seeing them alive outweighed the betrayal of them having kept it a secret from her for so long.
But their faces had been so cruel, so full of hate.
Tears sprang to her eyes at the thought of either of them hating her. She hadn’t meant to leave them. She remembered the way Rowan had fallen to the ground like a rag doll. She remembered the way it had felt when she’d held Matt in her arms, and she remembered the taste of his lips as she brought her head down to kiss him.
She remembered how it had felt as if someone had stabbed a knife into her.
She remembered how the darkness and angry and hurt had flared up in her, and how the house began to tremble, things crashing down around her, as she lashed out in her pain. She remembered how the flames had sprung up along the floor.
She remembered choking on the smoke and crying out for Matt as Vivienne looped an arm around her waist and carried her from the castle. She remembered feeling like a piece of her soul had been ripped away.
And now, Kendall had turned them both against her.
Kendall just kept taking and taking the things Shay cared most about. She picked them up and toyed with them, tossing them aside like a bored child when she was done with them.
Shay wanted to kill her.
She couldn’t remember ever hating someone enough to want to kill them . . . but at that moment, seeing the light in Theo’s eyes go out . . . seeing Matt and Rowan snarling at her in such open contempt . . . She wanted nothing more than to kill Kendall.
To make her suffer. To make her feel the anguish that Shay felt.
Shay wanted Kendall to beg for mercy, and Shay wanted to stand over her, knowing that it was in her power to give it, but still withholding it anyway.
A hand suddenly touched Shay’s shoulder, and she blinked, her eyes flickering up to meet Isobel’s.
“You okay?” Isobel murmured.
Shay swallowed. Shame burned her cheeks. Oh, Hecate. She couldn’t believe she’d ever thought those horrible things. Of course she wanted to stop Kendall, but make her suffer?
Shay shoved the thoughts away.
Isobel was still patiently waiting for a response.
Shay forced herself to nod. “Yes. I’m alright.”
Isobel gave her shoulder a small pat and smiled sadly, and then she turned back around in her seat.
A few minutes later, small clumps of brick buildings came into view through the trees, and the thick forest gave way to a street signs and sidewalks and shops. The couple pulled their car off into the parking lot of a tiny, dimly-lit diner.
“Thank you for the ride,” Isobel said, un-clicking her seatbelt.
Ivory gave Aubree a soft shake, and the girl sat up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes with the back of her hand.
“Are you sure you kids will be okay?” the woman asked hesitantly. “You don’t want to take her to the hospital?”
“Oh, trust me,” Isobel told the woman in soothing tones, and even Shay would have trusted her with any lie she might have told next, “this isn’t the first time this has happened. Shayna is so clumsy. I keep saying that we should just roll her up in bubble wrap before we take her outside.”
Shay frowned a bit in offense, but followed after Isobel as she climbed out of the car.
“Thanks, again,” Isobel said. She gave a small wave.
After a minute or so, the couple drove off.
“Shayna,” Shay said to her. “Really.”
“Be quiet. It was the best fake name I could think of at the time
“So,” Shay said, knocking her hands against her legs, “I guess we should get cleaned up and find a payphone. I can call Phoenix or Vivienne to come out and pick us up. Then we’ll have to discuss with Grandmother—”
“Wait,” Aubree said, and her tone commanded everyone to stop what they were doing. When Shay glanced over at her, she saw why. Aubree’s pupils were dilated, but there was a glazed-over look to her eyes, as if she seemed not to be seeing Shay or the other girls. She was somewhere else, seeing an entirely different scene. She was having a vision.
Isobel reached out a hand to touch her, and Shay knocked it away. “Don’t,” she said, “You’ll break her concentration.” Shay looked back at Aubree. “Aubree? What do you see?”
Lines puzzled Aubree’s forehead, and her eyes darted around. “I see . . . I see a girl. One of them.” She shuddered. “The one with the short hair. Anna. She’s . . . outside of a window. There’s another girl inside of the house that she’s looking in on. She has long blonde hair, almost white. I . . . I recognize her from when the Daughters came to Mother Ophelia’s.”
“Sienna,” Shay breathed.
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