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San Barkett was a small but well-traipsed coastal community three hours north of Verweald. Affluent homes dotted the sage hills, while smaller, red-roofed dwellings bordered the town's center. Bohemians sold art on the boardwalk during the weekends while residents with far too much disposable income ate at trendy cafes, and blooming jacarandas bordered the main boulevard, the delicate purple blossoms covering the asphalt and paved walkways.

San Barkett was where I grew up.

I directed Amoroth where to go and stared out the window without taking in the scenery. I knew those lovely flowering trees, those cliffs cut like broken treads against the battering waves. I once read that scientists could analyze isotopes to see where someone was raised, and I wondered if they'd see San Barkett reflected in my bones. I knew every corner of this place, and I'd washed my hands of it when I left at eighteen.

My childhood home was a five-bedroom new-traditional house built in the classical style. White columns framed the high porch, and most of the large windows faced the sloped lawn, the yard bordered by juniper hedges and an overgrown dogwood tree with its branches spread above the concrete walkway. No cars waited in the driveway, but I asked Amoroth to park alongside the tended parkway. Surprisingly, she did so.

"Nice house. Much better than yours, by the way. Why did you want to come here?" she asked, squinting through the early afternoon sunshine. The house was just as I remembered it; the front door the same cobalt blue as the facia, the white trim around the glossy windows pristine, freshly painted. I suddenly felt much younger—much younger and stupider.

I glanced at Amoroth. She had a curious glint in her eyes I didn't like or appreciate. "Would you stay in the car? I'll only be a minute."

"Oh yes," she mocked, opening her door. "I drove for three hours to just sit in the car. You do realize I don't technically have to drive anywhere, right?"

Right. Being able to move through the Realm at her own convenience meant Amoroth only took her car for appearance's sake—or for the convenience of people like me who couldn't be transported through the Realm for whatever reason. I still had to ask Darius about that, if I could ever find the right opportunity to question the difficult creature.

"Fine," I grunted as I got out.

We crossed the lawn, Amoroth following silently behind me, and I didn't ring the bell when I reached the porch; instead, I crouched by the flowerbed and flipped a decorative rock hidden in a philodendron.

"Why are we here, Gaspard? Robbery? Murder?"

I glowered at her. "No."

"Don't look at me like that. I don't know your proclivities."

Amoroth's scrutiny wore on my nerves as I opened the front door and walked inside the unlit the foyer.

"Nobody home?" she queried as she slammed the door and plunged us both into darkness.

"No," I said, flipping the light switch. I knew no one would be home at this hour, as both Luc and Eleanor had demanding work schedules, though I didn't explain this to the nosy Sin and instead continued deeper into the house, climbing the wide stairs.

The stairwell wall held a collection of slim frames, each photo capturing a moment from my childhood. Tara was predominantly featured, though I made several appearances, as did my parents. Luc had a slender, youthful presence he inherited from his own father. He smiled easily, in contrast to Eleanor's more severe expression, her makeup and hair impeccable in every picture.

Amoroth lingered on the stairs as she took in the assorted gallery. "Mmm...this is your parents' residence."

"Yup." On instinct, I opened the first door past the landing. Part of me expected to find my bedroom just as I had left it, so surreal was the timelessness of this house—but the room had been converted to a home gym, every trace of my tenancy eliminated. I slammed the door.

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