"I don't understand. Why are you leaving?" Darla asked.

We were both standing at the kitchen counter. She was cutting up potatoes, and I was peeling carrots. Luke had made himself scarce for the last hour.

"Your brother said he can't help me."

"He surprised me when he said he'd teach you. It's not something he should have agreed to." She averted her eyes. "I know about the rituals. I haven't been through them yet, but I've watched them." She put down the knife and looked at me. "I know I'm not supposed to say it. I know they expect me to go through it one day—and I will. But honestly, Colina, the things they put the initiates through..."

"Luke went through them," I said.

She went back to chopping potatoes and said in a low voice, "He did. He won't admit it, but it wasn't easy for him. He had nightmares afterward for a long time."

Luke wandered into the room. He gave me a hard stare. "You're staying for supper?"

"I promised Darla I would," I answered.

He nodded and picked up a piece of celery off the counter.

"Luke, convince her not to leave until tomorrow. It will be dark out soon and that gang...they might come back," Darla said.

"I'll make sure she gets safely into a cab," Luke answered.

Darla dropped a handful of potatoes into a pot. "Where are you going? Home?"

I hadn't told her about my family. I would leave it to Luke to fill her in on the details of my life after I left. Maybe once he did she'd understand why I was so desperate to find a teacher.

"I'm not sure." I turned to Luke. "If you could give me a name of someone, maybe someone in your guild?"

He shook his head. "No."

I turned back to Darla. "Do you know anyone who could help me?"

She didn't answer, but instead got busy wiping off the cutting board.

Luke watched me, his face full of disapproval, but I didn't care what he thought. If he couldn't help me, I had no choice but to move on and find another way to get what I needed.

I looked him straight in the eye and said in a firm voice, "Fine. If you won't help me, I'll go. It may take time, but I'll find someone who'll teach me."

Luke frowned and moved toward the windows.

I looked down at the carrot and peeler in my hands. "What are we making again?" I wasn't much of a cook. Mama had always done all the cooking in our house.

Darla answered. "Stew. It's my uncle's recipe—" The door flew open and slammed against the wall, cutting off her words.

Men rushed in. In a moment of pure horror I realized I recognized one of them—the bald man with a jagged scar running down one cheek heading my way. That's one of them. One of the men who attacked my family. I stood in shock, completely immobile at the counter.

Luke turned and yelled, "Run!"

His words set me in motion. I dropped the peeler, grabbed Darla by the hand, and pulled her toward the windows. If we could get over there, we could use the fire escape.

Suddenly there was a commotion—loud shouts, strange noises, and flashes of lights in a rainbow of colors. I didn't bother to turn around and see what was happening. Instead, I focused my whole being on escape. We were within inches of the closest window when Darla's hand was yanked from mine.

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